psychologist october 2017
Hazardous to health? Sarah Mackenzie Ross considers whether exposure to chemical substances could be damaging your brain
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psychologist october 2017
contact The British Psychological Society 48 Princess Road East Leicester LE1 7DR 0116 254 9568 email@example.com www.bps.org.uk the psychologist and research digest www.thepsychologist.org.uk www.bps.org.uk/digest www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @psychmag Download our iOS/Android apps advertising Reach 50,000+ psychologists at very reasonable rates. CPL, 1 Cambridge Technopark Newmarket Road Cambridge CB5 8PB recruitment Kai Theriault 01223 378051 email@example.com display Michael Niskin 01223 378 045 firstname.lastname@example.org september 2017 issue 51,474 dispatched design concept Darren Westlake www.TUink.co.uk printed by Warners Midlands plc on 100 per cent recycled paper issn 0952-8229 (print) 2398-1598 (online) © Copyright for all published material is held by the British Psychological Society unless speciﬁcally stated otherwise. As the Society is a party to the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) agreement, articles in The Psychologist may be copied by libraries and other organisations under the terms of their own CLA licences (www.cla.co.uk). Permission must be obtained for any other use beyond fair dealing authorised by copyright legislation. For further information about copyright and obtaining permissions, e-mail email@example.com.
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Hazardous to health? Sarah Mackenzie Ross considers whether exposure to chemical substances could be damaging your brain
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 october 2017
84 Looking back Adam Jowett on Leo Abse and the 1967 Sexual Offences Act
88 A to Z J is for…
Dr Jon Sutton Managing Editor @psychmag
Mark Elmore http://www.elmorephotos.com
With this edition, you’ll receive ‘The Psychologist Guide to University Life’: the fourth of these leaflets, this one kindly supported by Routledge Psychology. As ever, we hope you can help us get these evidence-based tips to the intended audience: new students from all subjects. There is an online version, and we have more hard copies available. And if you would sponsor our Guide to Pets, or have ideas for others, please get in touch! This issue also features a debate, between Cordelia Fine and Joe Herbert. Each month we say on the inside front cover that The Psychologist ‘provides a forum for communication, discussion and controversy’, but I’m the first to admit there’s not enough genuine debate in our pages. If you think you could change that, particularly via our new ‘Underrated/Overrated’ format, get in touch. And if you’re nervous about being forthright, look for inspiration to Erica Burman (p.52), Elizabeth Sigmund (p.26), Leo Abse (p.84), and Dame Theresa Marteau (p.66), who says it’s the inaction you’ll regret!.
02 Letters Including BME psychology 10 News Refugees; research; conference; and much more
22 Hazardous to health? Sarah Mackenzie Ross considers whether exposure to chemical substances could be damaging your brain
30 Little scientists – big impact A psychology kindergarten at the University of Stirling
36 Simulation-based education Jennifer Cleland
44 Is testosterone the key to sex differences in human behaviour? Cordelia Fine argues no; Joe Herbert says yes
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52 ‘I encountered considerable hostility to the kinds of critiques I was presenting’ We meet Erica Burman
56 Careers Holly Rose Welsby on life at university; and educational psychologist Will Shield
62 Jobs in psychology Featured job, latest vacancies
66 One on one with Dame Theresa Marteau
70 Books including kinship and loss Q+A 76 Culture
Advancing BME psychology
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Black History Month is apt to bring our collective attention to overlooked work by BME psychologists. Take for example Mamie and Kenneth Clark’s (1939) study in which they imaginatively asked 258 black children aged 3–7 which black or white doll was ‘a nice doll’, ‘a nice colour’ and ‘like you’. The researchers found that the children routinely preferred the white dolls and, most poignantly, became visibly upset when they answered the last question; forced to confront the fact that they were different to their preferred doll. These findings were more prominent in those children who attended segregated nurseries. It is hard to think of a psychology study that has made a bigger impact than this. In 1954 Dr Kenneth Clark presented the research to the US Supreme Court in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education. He used his and Mamie’s findings to show that segregation had profound effects on black children’s wellbeing, helping to end formal educational segregation. Both Kenneth and Mamie dedicated their subsequent professional and personal lives to providing accessible therapy, employment advice and housing assistance to the Harlem community. Their important work has provided a backdrop for many BME psychologists who, like Kenneth and Mamie, are driven by a strong commitment to undoing injustices and an even stronger aversion to the ivory tower of academia. For example, Claude Steele’s (1995) stereotype threat work shows how racism concretely impairs exam performance using experimental methods. More recent work in this vein includes that by Guilaine Kinouani (https://racereflections.co.uk), a clinical psychology doctoral student, equality consultant, therapist and founder of the Minorities in Clinical Psychology Training Group (@minoritiesgroup) and that by Professor Ama De-Graf Aikins, whose work focuses on experiences of chronic illnesses, Africa’s noncommunicable disease (NCD) burden and the social psychology of knowledge in African settings. Attending to this work is important given our discipline’s historical racism. For example, in May 1990 this magazine published Phillipe Rushton’s research purporting to show black people were less intelligent and less law abiding, and had greater STIs compared to other races. But it is also important because our discipline’s racism arguably continues today. Most of our journal articles are edited by Westerners (99%) written by Westerners (99%) and use only Westerners as participants (93%: Arnett, 2008; Heinrich et al., 2010). Even our teaching is overwhelmingly white and Western. Recently I and colleagues at Leeds Beckett University coded the ethnicity, nationality and gender of every author of every reading we set from the module handbooks of our BSc Psychology Hons course in 2015/16. Of the 215
readings we set, written by 380 authors, 96 per cent were white, 99 per cent were Western and 64 per cent were male. Soberingly, the module that I (Glen) set reading for was no better than any other. I should note that our course team works hard for our students. We teach innovative and critical psychology. We have a strong feminist foundation (which the above content analysis highlighted the importance of, 64 per cent of authors were male) and staff that generally strive to be sensitive to structural oppression regardless of what they teach. So to be clear then, this is by no means a problem specific to our institution. Indeed, there is a whole movement, Why Is My Curriculum White?, dedicated to highlighting and decolonising whiteness in higher education globally. The problems with such a curriculum should be obvious. We’re overlooking BME psychologists’ work, we’re teaching content that is less likely to show how racism relates to health, development or our social world (or any of the stuff psychology professes to explain), and more simply we are not teaching the psychology of people but the psychology of white, Western (and often male) people. With Leeds Beckett colleagues we have therefore set up a website (www.bmepsychology.com) signposting to such BME psychological and anti-racist work. But we need help. If you know any of the many BME psychologists we have no doubt missed, please add them to our archive. If you are willing to share anti-racist teaching materials or would like to use them, then please do. Glen Jankowski, Sarah Gillborn & Rowan Sandle Leeds Beckett University
the psychologist october 2017 letters
Unprepared undergraduates? On paper, the A-level syllabus is fascinating. It explores gender, eating behaviour, aggression, sleep, perception and more. However, there is a clear discrepancy between the A-level course and the world of psychology beyond the classroom. This is not the first time that A-level psychology has been scrutinised, but up to now the conversation has been reserved for commentary from established psychology academics. As a psychology undergraduate and recent A-level alumna, I call upon students, academics and teachers to join the discussion on how we can bridge the gap between A-level and university. The topics in the AQA syllabus are areas of study with potential for serious discussion and controversy. Arguably, debate is a hallmark of any good research question or theory. Unfortunately, psychology A-level leaves little room for this. There is a large amount of content, meaning that lessons are often a whistle-stop tour of a particular area. How can we expect to teach the science of human behaviour and not allow any time for immersive and inquisitive conversation? Cohorts of students are leaving sixth form or college alienated and confused by the rigid teachings of A-level psychology, and so may cut their psychology career
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short. Or rather, students sign up for the BSc and are wholly unprepared for the critical thinking that is expected of them – and so quickly drop out. I’m not sure which one is worse. Sixth form saw a full day of timetabled hourly lessons, with a clear syllabus and relatively little self-directed study at all. With this in mind, it is no surprise that undergraduates struggle with the transition to university. It is also no surprise that the number of students dropping out of university in first year is higher than ever (see Times Higher Education, March 2017: tinyurl.com/y85h7q3d). Most of my university timetable is left free for ‘self-directed study time’. This aims to cultivate an ethos that encourages original thought and nurtures selfmotivated learners. However, this approach is worlds away from the culture of A-level psychology. This discrepancy is particularly salient given the long-standing published research which identifies ‘feeling academically unprepared’ as a main motive for dropping out of university (see Rickinson and Rutherford, 1995). I propose that education is more generally approached as an overriding interdisciplinary experience, with more fluid transitions between stages.
The A-level assessment structure does not equip students with the skills they require in a degree and beyond. During my A-level I never wrote an essay or a scientific report. Jarvis (2012) notes that reportwriting in psychology A-level has disappeared completely since 2008. Prose-based assignments are cornerstones of a psychology degree structure – and a key skill to have in order to pursue any applied psychology career. However, despite AQA’s best efforts to replicate this – using all the right phrases in exam papers: ‘Outline and evaluate’ and ‘Assess’ – the assessment of A-level content is too limited to engage students in any meaningful way. After reviewing a past A2 paper, I found a model answer to an ‘Assess’ question. Validity, reliability and replicability were accepted as ‘evaluation points’ in a bullet-pointed list. China Mills and Jenny Slater, two psychology lecturers from Sheffield, attempted to answer psychology AQA exam questions (see tinyurl. com/yajl9fgl) They approached the question with a critical eye, offering a contemporary interpretation of the issues. However, their answers were not included in AQA’s list and so they scraped few marks. I fear that the results-orientated culture has caused the A-level to compress interesting topics into neatly structured exam questions, rather than nurturing a generation of engaged critical thinkers and evaluative minds. It is therefore unsurprising that high performance in psychology A-level does not predict degree classification (Betts et al., 2008). Ultimately, it is left to both undergraduates and academics to ensure that transition from the rigid and prescriptive nature of A-levels to the independent ethos of universities is done smoothly. Therefore, and I ask this with genuine interest in responses, where do we go from here? What can psychologists do to improve this transition? Madeleine Pownall Psychology undergraduate, University of Lincoln
References Betts, L.R., Elder, T.J., Hartley, J. & Blurton, A. (2008). Predicting university performance in psychology: The role of previous performance and discipline-specific knowledge. Educational Studies, 34(5), 543–556. Jarvis, M. (2012). Teaching psychology 14–19: Issues and techniques. Abingdon: Routledge. Rickinson, B. & Rutherford, D. (1995). Increasing undergraduate student retention rates. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 23(2), 161–172.
Scattering concern for the environment One person’s influence upon the earth’s environment is necessarily limited but nonetheless crucial. Average yearly temperatures are rising; and, for our species to survive, although our abilities are modest, our ambition must be enormous. None of us can solve the problem of climate change on our own, and our record of solving problems together is not good. In short, it’s a worry – one of the greatest political problems of our time. And, although the problem is as urgent as ever, it already feels as though it has been with us for a very long while. Let us therefore, just for a moment, take a slightly different perspective on the problem by thinking about it in relation to another increasingly urgent problem, the thought of our own individual mortality. Interestingly, these worries do not necessarily compound one another, rather without the aid of religious faith, there may be a way to manage one worry with the help of the other. Let me explain. One human characteristic that may come very close to universality across cultures is respect for the grave. And, insofar as any land is safe from development, the graveyard is a sanctuary, tended with care but set aside from having to turn a profit. But this care can be extended beyond official graveyards. For when we scatter a loved one’s ashes in the countryside there is the same feeling of obligation to look after that patch of ground as there is within a graveyard. My point is very simple: that, when we scatter ashes somewhere beyond the graveyard walls, the care that is traditionally concentrated on graveyards
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becomes itself more widely scattered. And that is a consoling thought, both politically, with respect to climate change, and personally, with respect to leaving some form of legacy. However, just as it is fairly common for people to die without leaving a will, it is also fairly common to die without having left instructions about our bodily remains. It is not my intention to discuss making a will, but I do believe it is a mistake not to leave instructions about our remains. ‘Well,’ someone might say, ‘when I’m dead, I’m dead. I won’t know anything.’ (I have noticed, by the way, that this often is said with a tone of pride, presumably pride at hard won tough-mindedness.) Well, for the sake of argument let us grant that point, but if you nonetheless have some concern for the fate of the earth, then there is your motivation. What have you to lose? There is a caveat. I have argued that it may be helpful to think of the two problems together, but this suggestion is not a magic bullet for either worry. For example, by asking for one’s ashes to be scattered in a favourite meadow, one cannot in a fail-safe way prevent it from being covered in concrete if it is already scheduled for development. If you try to prevent a particular development taking place – if you request that your ashes be scattered on a site already scheduled for development – then you are very likely to cause your friends and family distress when the site is bulldozed. Of course, there is no guarantee that this will never happen wherever your ashes are scattered. But, that notwithstanding, it is also true that if it is cared for a hedgerow or a wood can, like the earth itself, in principle last – from most of our perspectives – almost for ever (until the sun burns out, etc.), every part continually renewed. Scattering ashes beyond the graveyard encourages this care. In the other direction, it would be surprising if the thought of still doing some good after one’s death were to quell our awe of death entirely; but, nonetheless, it is curious that these two different worries do not compound each other. In both directions, we can feel less helpless in the face of one worry by also thinking of the other. Neither worry is eradicated but – logically, pragmatically and psychologically – both worries may grow somewhat more manageable when we think of them together. Dr Stephen Leach Honorary Senior Fellow, SPIRE Keele University
the psychologist october 2017 letters
Censoring legitimate discussion? Following an article which recently appeared in The Guardian about a columnist’s experience with antidepressants (see tinyurl. com/yaurjqql) I submitted a few comments in the space below it reserved for public discussion. In this I wished the author well and then commented that the evidence for the efficacy of antidepressant medication was not as well-founded as people would like to believe (e.g. in the writings of Irving Kirsch and Joanna Moncrieff) and that the view that being depressed was a disease was also contestable. I was somewhat alarmed to discover shortly afterwards that the comment had been removed. I wrote to the paper to ask for an explanation. I eventually received the following reply: Thanks for getting in touch. Your comment was moderated because in discussions regarding mental health we do not allow users to claim that issues such as depression do not exist. We consider this line of discussion dismissive and effectively off topic as per point 8 of our community standards – ‘Keep it relevant. We know that some conversations can be wide-ranging, but if you post something which is unrelated to the original topic (“off-topic”) then it may be removed, in order to keep the thread on track. This also
applies to queries or comments about moderation, which should not be posted as comments.’ As the points which I made are perfectly respectable and defensible positions in our profession – I stress that nowhere in my comments did I deny that people suffer from being depressed. I complained – to which after several days I have had no response. This raises several critical issues. On the face of it we have a prestigious national, indeed international, newspaper – and one moreover that expresses liberal values – which is in effect censoring discussion on a mental health issue in a manner that favours the entrenched financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry and that simultaneously misinforms and limits the understanding of readers. Ron Roberts CPsychol, AFBPsS London
Letters online: Find more letters at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/debates, including Claire Hamlet and colleagues from the University of the West of England responding to a suggestion that health psychologists are ill-equipped to work directly with patients, and Karen Rodham and colleagues chipping in with why health and clinical psychologists should be working together. Also see https://beta.bps.org.uk/blogs/bps-policy-unit/flawed-precious for our editor Dr Jon Sutton and Dr Lisa Morrison-Coulthard on perpetually ‘challenging times’ for the British Psychological Society. Deadline for letters for the November print edition is Friday 29 September 2017. Letters received after this date will be considered for the following month and/or for publication online. Email letters to email@example.com with the subject line ‘Letter to the editor’.
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president’s letter This autumn sees the usual round of political party conferences, packed with speeches, fringe events, planned and serendipitous meetings. Policies are launched, big ideas tested, and opportunities taken to influence agendas. This year the Society is attending both the Conservative and Labour conferences. Our policy team and our consultants Westminster Advisers work hard to plan our strategy and set up key meetings, contacting not only ministerial teams or members of select committees who have responsibilities in the areas we wish to influence, but also a broader base of politicians with a relevant background or interest, for example having disclosed relevant personal experience, or asked a parliamentary question. All our effort is geared to achieving our impact statement, that ‘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 have developed a set of core policy objectives across practice, research, education and training and public policy. The party conferences provide a perfect opportunity to gain traction and build our reputation with policy makers by repeating and emphasising these public policy messages: • All new government statements and policy papers should include a description of the problem/issue from a psychological perspective that is informed by psychological evidence. • All policy interventions should be designed to reflect the social determinants of human behaviour and response to social and environmental causes as well as purely individual, dispositional ones. • All new policy interventions that aim to change human behaviour should be chosen based upon a robust evidence base for their effectiveness. • Governments should commit to prevention and reflect this in legislation, policy priorities, budget allocations and departmental targets. • All government statements should contain a measurable objective to enhance the experience of individuals, communities and wider societies. Our focus this year is on the core policy objectives in relation to children and young people’s mental health; the shape of the mental health workforce; and the work and health agenda. Our policy objectives and impact statement must become recognisable and consistent across all our policy work. How might this approach change things in your field? Contact Nicola Gale via PresidentsOffice@bps.org.uk
Driverless vehicle problems It was good to see evidence that psychologists are seriously involving themselves with the application of developments in artificial intelligence and robotics to personal and commercial transport systems (‘The future of transport’ by Stephen Skippon and Nick Reed, August 2017). The consequent technological changes are likely to see some of the largest-scale social and economic upheavals that have occurred for decades or even centuries. By now, though, most of us are probably familiar with the usual litany of benefits associated with driverless vehicles: they don’t need sleep or food, get fatigued, make mobile phone calls or daydream of muscled hunks and bikini babes. We get the point: vehicles controlled by computers don’t suffer from most of the weaknesses and deficiencies that cause human driver error. But then the narrative seems to come to an end rather abruptly. Do driverless vehicles have no weaknesses or problems associated with them at all? Or do they, instead of having humantype failings, have computer-type failings? We all know how often and in what manner computers fail: they fail catastrophically – just stop working completely, without warning, something humans hardly ever do. Their sensors and other input devices get scratched or dirty and stop working, batteries fail or catch fire, electrical connections get corroded or break, software becomes corrupted or gets hacked. Most of these problems are soluble: back-up power systems, duplicate control circuits, key component failure I was delighted to see the article by Stephen Skippon and Nick Reed on the psychology of self-driving vehicles. If memory serves me well, there have been very few articles on driving published by the BPS. It strikes me that there are (at least) two different kinds of vehicles
protocols, and so on. But such problems are real and serious, especially during the technological transition phase when human drivers share the roads and must cope with the consequences of driverless vehicle failure. During the development phase (i.e. at present) if a robot vehicle fails, the technicians probably just fix it and carry on. But are they recording driverless vehicle failure data? Do they know what types of failure occur and how often they happen? Do they consider what the consequences might be in real environments? Can they tell us how long a driverless vehicle will last and whether we will discover that their working lives have come to an end only when without warning they pack up completely, as we do with computers. Dr Roger Lindsay Ulverston, Cumbria
one might consider here. One is a vehicle where the ‘driving’ is done by someone else – e.g. a 10-seater for travelling between different places – and another is a vehicle of the sort discussed by Skippon and Reed, where one’s own
Find obituaries online www.thepsychologist.org.uk/obituaries Jo Stace (1971–2017)
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car switches into fully automatic mode. The former seems much more acceptable that the latter. In the latter case I wonder about the problem of ‘habit interference’. My own car, for instance, has the indicator controls on the right of the steering wheel, and the head- and side-light controls on the left. My partner’s car has the reverse. And we both make mistakes when driving the other’s car. This small detail suggests, as do Skippon and Reed, that a great deal of attention will have to be paid to the controls of a car that can switch, or be switched, into automated mode. Indeed, some drivers might be too frightened to allow it! A colleague of mine has a car with automatic parking capabilities, but, he confesses, he has ‘never dared use it’! James Hartley Keele University
the psychologist october 2017 letters
Stereotype block or priming? Elizabeth Kirkham uses the old chestnut riddle about the doctor being unable to treat a son when we know the father is elsewhere (News, July 2017). In what I believe is the older version, the father has been killed and the doctor is a surgeon called upon to operate on the critically injured child patient, strengthening further the impression that gender expectations explain people’s difficulty in identifying the surgeon as a mother, since female surgeons are less numerous than female doctors and certainly were when I used to use this problem in teaching. Kirkham says that her difficulty with the problem was ‘testament to the strength of
negative stereotypes surrounding women’s scientific abilities’. I think however, that this is one of those cases where the explanation is ‘obvious’ but perhaps not necessarily correct. I thought and taught that this was clearly an example of a stereotype block to thinking for many years until I came across this much simpler riddle. Two people are sitting on a park bench. One is the father of the other one’s son. Who is the other person? OK it’s obvious to you now in this context, but try it on your students. Although I didn’t test this empirically, my experience in teaching was that just as many students, after a series of attempts including stepfather,
foster father, priest, grandfather, Mafia boss, and so on, got as completely stuck looking for an answer as with the doctor version. It appears that, having set up the father–son connection, people find it hard not to reverse the link to son– father. Perhaps also in the park bench version, through gendered expectation, women do not spring to mind as easily as men, but that might be a little far-fetched. Whatever the explanation, the reason for the problem with the doctor version cannot be only that we expect doctors to be male. Research needed. Hugh Coolican Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Coventry University
The Sussicran complex A little-known (but admired by Ted Hughes and Allen Ginsberg) British-American poet was Harry Fainlight (see www.wolfmagazine.co.uk/15_review.php). In his short life he had a book of verse published by his sister Ruth (herself a noted poet), and there is also a rare, slim pamphlet Harry called Sussicran. It needs to be pointed out that this is Narcissus, backwards. I do not know if anyone has followed the trail of Harry’s thought in naming his condition, so here are a couple of steps along the way, following which may lead to filling a not inconsiderable empty niche in the dramatis personae of psychology. The first clue in the review above is its reference to Harry’s ‘complex [i.e. possibly unliveable with] Jewish sensibility’. The Ancient Greeks had recognised and labelled a mythic youth named Narcissus – whose foible was an undue love of himself; but did they identify an opposite state of being – that of one who unduly disparages one’s self? Such a ‘syndrome’ surely invites identification and Harry did the deed. How widespread might a ‘Sussicran complex’ be, and how might it arise? I knew Harry somewhat and he did not emerge as a well-grounded person either in his Jewish paternity or in his possibly bisexual identity. Studies of healthy self-esteem suggest that it is built on combining a perception of others’ high regard for oneself and one’s own recognition that such perceptions are valid and mirrored internally. Discussions with therapists indicate that at the other extreme self-disparagement is widespread and takes many forms. Two of these can be hypothesised here. Writing at a time of post-election upheaval intensified by grief and anger over the loss of life in Grenfell
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Tower, one may suggest that some amongst the most deeply affected have an element of rejecting a simply ‘British’ heritage, and those who want to conserve it outside a European State. A related discomfort, which might come to be recognised as a polar opposite of narcissism and may develop among those who deplore Britain’s colonial record, runs: ‘I hate what my ancestors did, and any attempt to develop a dignified identity in their shadow.’ An institution likely to generate perceptions that others think poorly of oneself, and that percolate into how one regards oneself, is that of caste in Hindu society. At the bottom of – or indeed outside – the hierarchy are people widely called Dalits, who number around one in six of the world’s second most populous nation, and who are, despite well-intentioned governmental policies, still widely discriminated against. Studies of esteem amongst Dalits (https:// muse.jhu.edu/article/558561/summary) have suggested there will be a substantial number who disparage themselves to a marked degree [see also tinyurl.com/ y99cc9vt]. While the matter is very little discussed as concerning the Hindu diasporas in Western nations, it would appear to deserve more attention in terms of research, policy and social action. These two examples should be enough to indicate that sussicranism is likely to be a diverse complex and important ‘syndrome’. Mallory Wober London NW3
A persistent misconception It is still disappointing and surprising to read at this stage in the decade that the belief that learning styles exist still itself exists, despite the evidence demonstrating that the concept has no validity – there is no satisfactory operational definition of a learning ‘style’ – and that the matching of learning according to any putative learning style does not lead to a better academic outcome (Letters, September 2017). The misconception extends to higher education with 58 per cent of a sample of UK academics, according to a 2017 survey, endorsing the use of learning styles, although only 33 per cent actually used them (Newton & Miah, 2017). Pohrer and Pashler (2012) found that of 20 studies in fields as varied as psychology, science and medicine, only three reported evidence for learning styles: one did not report the measures on which the data were derived and only one produced a statistically significant result. In two, there were mixed results – half the tests were positive; half were negative. People with ‘visual learning styles’ are no better at learning words visually than auditorily (Constantinidou & Baker, 2002) and are no better at
processing verbal or pictorial information if they are self-described visualisers or verbalisers (Massa & Meyer, 2006). A study of medical students found no benefit of matching learning to sensitive/concrete and intuitive/ abstract learning styles (Cook et al., 2009). Kirschner and van Merrienboer (2013) have argued that a better way of helping people to learn better is not to indulge the concept of learning styles but to tailor instruction to cognitive ability. If cognitive ability and prior learning are taken into account when instructing, this will benefit a student’s learning. They cite an example from Kalyuaga et al. (2003). When students were divided into those with low prior knowledge or high prior knowledge, LPK students were better at learning from examples than from solving problems. HPK students showed the opposite pattern. This answers the ‘why’ question – Why do some approaches work? rather than the ‘what’ question – What works? (the more superficial of the two questions). Professor G. Neil Martin Regent’s University London
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I read with great interest your interview with Christina Maslach on burnout (September 2017). The points she made were immediately very familiar to me not so much in my role as a practitioner psychologist, but as an adoptive parent. Although their work is surrounded by a cultural stereotype of happiness, adoptive parents are at high risk of experiencing burnout – but, as elsewhere, they are invisible in discussions such as this. Adoptive parents take on some of the most needy and challenging children in our society. They not infrequently have to deal with violence (which can be directed at the parents, at siblings or others), self-harm, urinary and/or faecal incontinence, inappropriate and dangerous sexual behaviour, outbursts of anger, school refusal, persistent stealing, and more. Unlike people in other traumainducing roles, adoptive parents cannot take sick leave. They cannot resign or request a transfer to another department. Adopted children are yours. You cope as best you can.
Given this, we should not be surprised that, according to a recent BBC report, the charity Adoption UK ‘thinks as many as a quarter of all adoptive families are in crisis and in need of professional help to keep the family unit together’ (www.bbc.co.uk/ news/uk-38764302). I particularly agree with Christina Maslach is in what she says about the need for organisational change. Some of the biggest problems that adoptive parents face are with ‘the system’. Teachers, medical professionals, social workers and others all too often lack the training to properly understand adoptive families and their needs. Some local
authority post-adoption services are competent and helpful. Some are well-meaning but incompetent. Some are abusive toward the very people they are paid to help. Adoptive parents save local authorities a massive amount of money – even when adoption allowances are considered. If local authority staff would simply acknowledge this fact, it would be a great step forward. For the time being my family has support from our friends, our extended family, our church and our neighbours. We survive – but sometimes only just. Name and address supplied
the psychologist october 2017 letters
• • •
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‘It’s not a crisis or problem we can sweep under the rug’ W
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hile around 1 per cent of the world’s entire population is currently displaced, including 22.5 million refugees, our awareness, and care for, their plight seems to fluctuate with the news agenda. History may look back on this period and wonder how it could have been ignored. Our journalist Ella Rhodes spoke to a psychosocial worker working at the heart of the crisis in Greece and to psychologists who are trying to unravel why our empathy only stretches so far. Zarlasht Halaimzai is Executive Director of the Refugee Trauma Initiative (RTI: see www.refugeetrauma. org), the only organisation focused on providing psychosocial support to refugees in Greece; she told us about her work. Since March 2016 the NGO has managed to provide psychosocial support to more than 2000 vulnerable people and is now hoping to raise funds to hire new therapists to continue its work. ‘Losing your home and your community and your friends has an impact on everything. The refugees we work with have no idea where they’ll end up, they’ve experienced many potentially traumatic experiences, they have no access to a job market so there’s a loss of identity associated with that. You lose your routines, your
structures. One of the things that comes up again and again in our groups is what are we coping for? Where’s this going? Where’s the end? Refugees in Greece have been through a huge ordeal to get there. People think when they reach the country things will improve, but they don’t.’ Halaimzai, who set up the NGO with colleagues after travelling to Greece to help refugees arriving on Lesbos, was herself a refugee as a child after her family was forced to flee Afghanistan and the horrors of civil war when she was 11. She and her family spent the next four years travelling without a secure or permanent home through Central Asia and Europe – always with the hope they could return to Afghanistan and continue their lives; but after the Taliban took over the country it became impossible to return. Halaimzai and her family finally settled in London as refugees when she was 15. Despite speaking little English and having never been to school, Halaimzai found herself in a tough London comprehensive, starting her life all over again. ‘That definitely shaped who I am and my motivations and what I wanted to do with my life. My whole career has been about bridging the gap between
the psychologist october 2017 news people who have things and people who don’t. Right now that is about helping refugees.’ Indeed, Halaimzai’s career has involved extraordinary work; travelling to Jordan to help refugees, working with Save the Children helping to support educational programmes in Syrian cities Aleppo and Idleb while children’s homes were being bombed. She is now training as a child psychotherapist, and she and colleagues turned their attention to giving psychological support to refugees. Halaimzai said that in all the areas she has worked psychological support for refugees is lacking: ‘It’s an area that remains under-served because it’s difficult work. You need specialists, you need to invest, but it’s completely indispensable for communities to recover and survive these conflicts.’ Currently around 60,000 people in Greece are awaiting the results of their asylum applications, most of those refugees have been through many camps and continue to be moved around, causing further uncertainty. Some of the refugees have been given temporary housing, but after six months they will be expected to find their own accommodation. To make matters worse, most of the larger NGOs, including Médecins Sans Frontières, International Rescue Committee and Save the Children, are downscaling their operations in Greece or leaving altogether as many reach the end of emergency funding. But psychological support, Halaimzai added, is as important as food, shelter and water for people living through unimaginable crises. ‘We definitely hope to play a significant role in the humanitarian sector when it comes to psychosocial support and refugee wellbeing. The more we work in this area the more obvious the need for this type of service. Our data so far is mainly qualitative, but people really benefit from this kind of support.’ The RTI helps to set up safe spaces in the refugee camps in Greece where men, women and children can talk with a trained psychologist or therapist about anything they like. They use a group approach, art and music activities, and help empower people to find solutions to their own problems. The RTI therapists also work as advocates for the refugees when they hear about provisions in camps or shelters that may be lacking, or as mediators between the refugee communities, service providers and the Greek government. ‘We don’t really provide therapy, it’s not safe enough to do so when people are in transition. Through the group method, using art, music and other activities, we hope to have a therapeutic impact on the people we work with. One of the things we’re keen to keep as part of our model is to have qualified people present in the group even when we aren’t providing therapy.’ The RTI has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise £50,000 to help hire two more therapists, with a specialism in child development and trauma, to be based in Northern Greece. Fathers are a particularly overlooked group in such work, so Halaimzai is hoping to hire one male practitioner to help fathers of refugee families cope from day to day. RTI is also always seeking experienced volunteers who can commit to at least four weeks in
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Greece to work with refugees and provide training for volunteers and aid workers. ‘No one decides to live in a refugee camp. This is going to grow, it’s not a crisis or problem we can sweep under the rug. It’s not a question of whether it’s good or bad to address it, it won’t go away. Migration, displacement and refugees will increase with more conflict, inequality and climate change. We’ll have more and more movement of people, and if policymakers don’t take that into account and genuinely address it as a problem I don’t see how anything will change.’ Many psychologists are working towards a solution to just this problem: How can we make such enormous issues trigger empathy in individuals and policymakers? More than two years after the horrifying photograph of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach brought about a wave of compassion and charity donations, the refugee crisis is now rarely featured in the main news agenda – at least in the Western world. In an interview in Vox Brian Resnick spoke to psychologist Paul Slovic (University of Oregon), whose work has asked why the world ignores mass atrocities and mass suffering. While humans are excellent at sympathising with the plight of individuals, as the number of affected people rises we grow increasingly detached. This phenomenon, named psychic numbing by Slovic, even applies when the number of victims rises from one to two. Slovic has done research on the public response to the photograph of Aylan Kurdi, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He told Resnick: ‘Since 2011, the... death toll in Syria was relentlessly climbing to hundreds of thousands. Suddenly we see this little boy washed up on the beach, and it woke people up. People suddenly started to care about the Syrian war and the refugees, in ways that the statistics of hundreds of thousands of deaths had not led them to pay attention to. Then we were able to track that, and that lasted roughly a month.’ Many feel unable to help in the face of such large numbers of affected people, a phenomenon known as false inefficiency. But Slovic said: ‘Even partial solutions can save whole lives. Sure, it doesn’t feel as good. Don’t be misled by the fact that you can’t do it all. In one of our experiments, we showed that people were less likely to do something that would save 4500 lives in a refugee camp if that camp had 250,000 people than if it had 11,000 people. It didn’t feel as good to save those lives, 4500 out of 250,000. That’s where you say, “Well, wait a minute. Even partial solutions save whole lives”.’
The flames of hate
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August’s ‘Unite the Right’ protest was, supposedly, a stand against the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, protesters carried lit torches chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’, and did not shy away from voicing their racist views to reporters on the scene. One anti-fascist protester, Heather Heyer, was tragically killed when a man drove his car into the crowd. US President Donald Trump then drew widespread condemnation for failing to specifically decry neo-Nazis, instead at first denouncing violence ‘on many sides’. If turning to leaders to douse the flames of hate seems increasingly futile, what can psychology contribute? And what can it tell us about the origins of beliefs within these extremist groups, and their potential for change? In the aftermath of Charlottesville, Vox reported an as yet unpublished study by psychologists Patrick Forscher and Nour Kteily that revealed the disturbing attitudes some people hold towards others. Almost 450 members of the ‘alt-right’ were asked about their attitudes and beliefs: in a novel item on the survey they were shown a stereotypical ‘evolution of man’ picture, showing a chimp progressively evolving into a human. The alt-righters were asked to use a slider beneath the picture to show how evolved they believed certain groups to be from 0 to 100, with 100 being fully human. While white people were scored on average as 91.8 out of 100 human, Muslims were scored 55.4, democrats 60.4, black people 64.7, Mexicans 67.7, journalists 58.6, Jews 73, and feminists scored 57 (it is interesting to note women scored 83.12 and men 88.47.) In statistical terms the alt-right were almost a full standard deviation more extreme in their responses in comparison to the control group. Surveyed members of the alt-right were also not shy about expressing their prejudice towards black people and also admitted to aggressive behaviours such as releasing private information without approval (known as doxxing), physically threatening others online and making offensive statements to get a rise out of people. Forscher said: ‘We found evidence that there’s a much more extreme group of [alt-right] people who are reporting harassing and being offensive intentionally… But there’s a group of people who doesn’t do that that much, or not that much at all.’ Forscher and Kteily called this less extreme group ‘populists’. Science reporter Brian Resnick wrote: ‘They’re less aggressive and dehumanizing overall, and more concerned with government corruption. But even these milder “populists” are as supportive of collective white action, and as opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement, as the supremacists.’ An article in The Atlantic pointed to a 2000 paper by sociologist Mitch Berbrier, who looked at dozens of white supremacist media appearances and documents and found a strong sense of victimhood. This seems to be how the groups assure themselves they aren’t being racist – ‘Hey, we’re suffering too’. White supremacists believe they are victims of discrimination, they have fewer rights, they
will be discriminated against for expressing pride; they cite being psychologically affected by a loss of self-esteem, and believe that all of this will lead to the full extermination of whites from the face of the earth. But can these views be changed? Research by Professor Rhiannon Turner (Queen’s University Belfast) and Professor Richard Crisp (Durham University) have found that imagining positive contact with members of outgroups can help break down prejudice. I asked Crisp whether this so-called imagined contact approach could be useful in tackling alt-right beliefs. He said imagined contact had been developed to target groups who would be unlikely to come into contact with a group about whom they had negative beliefs – due to physical barriers or lack of motivation. ‘In the case of extremism, one can expect very low levels of motivation to engage in contact, so this is precisely where imagined contact could help, and there are numerous studies that show imagined contact can increase intentions to engage in contact for a variety of groups; for example my 2014 meta-analysis with Eleanor Miles. Of course, one might expect extremism ideology to preclude any possibility of positive contact, real or imagined. However, research is now starting to challenge that assumption, showing that even people with highly prejudiced or biased views of other groups can show improvements in attitudes following both real contact and imagined contact.’ Another approach within psychology is to look at case studies of those who have successfully become ‘deradicalised’. Last year, a team led by John Horgan at Georgia State University published ‘Walking away: The disengagement and de-radicalization of a violent rightwing extremist’, which was reported on our Research Digest (tinyurl.com/yadzkbpe). The researchers applied their ‘arc framework’ to the story of ‘Sarah’, a former member of various neo-Nazi right-wing groups who now works to combat violence and racism by speaking to atrisk youths, and says she feels a ‘responsibility to go out and try to undo damage’. The researchers applied their ‘arc framework’ to Sarah’s story – the idea that the path from extremist to deradicalisation goes from involvement, to engagement, to disengagement, and that this longterm process is likely to be shaped by the reasons behind initial involvement and engagement. For Sarah, the physical distance from those groups created by imprisonment for armed robbery provided the space and opportunity for Sarah to confront her doubts. She befriended black women in jail, surprised by their acceptance of her (despite her notoriety and racist tattoos). While acknowledging that their account of Sarah’s case was ‘partial, idiosyncratic and limited’, the researchers noted that ‘most of what is said and written about violent extremist offenders [is] rarely complemented by insights from the offenders themselves’. er
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Christmas lectures on language and life Forty years after Professor Sophie Scott was enthralled by Carl Sagan’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures she will be taking to the stage herself to inspire a whole new era of future scientists. Scott’s lectures will explore communication in humans and other animals – from voices and laughter to emojis and language. The Christmas Lecture series was started by Michael Faraday and aimed at a younger audience who could attend during their Christmas break. Held every year since 1825, excluding 1939 to 1942 due to the Second World War, the lectures are now broadcast every Christmas on BBC Four and have included series by naturalist David Attenborough in 1973 and chemist Saiful Islam last year. Scott (University College London) is well-known for her work exploring vocal communication and the neurobiology of speech and speech production. As a stand-up comedian herself Scott is famed for her research on laughter, and her 2015 TED talk ‘Why we laugh’ has been viewed more than 2.5 million times. You can read more about her work in our online archive. Scott’s first lecture will explore the development of the human voice, how laughter provides a link to our evolutionary past, how the voice box
has changed the shape of our faces and why we sound like we do. In her second lecture Scott will speak about the more hidden side of communication including contagious behaviours and the emotional clues in smell. In the final lecture she will look into a mystery of science, how and when humans evolved language, revealing the incredible brain power and sensory skill needed to understand even a simple sentence. Scott told us she hoped her lectures would be fun and accessible and show how diverse a science psychology is. ‘This is a huge deal personally as the Christmas Lectures were very important to me as a child – I very clearly recall watching the Sagan ones in 1977, and I was absolutely hooked. I already liked science and this was such an exciting glimpse into the real world of scientific research. I think it’s a great
thing for psychology to be featured again – coming after Bruce Hood’s excellent lectures in 2011 – and it’s also a massive responsibility to make sure we do justice to the field and to the existing research. I am very excited and I want to do this as well as I can.’ Next year Scott will tour the lectures in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Due to demand, tickets can only be obtained by ballot: see www.rigb. org/christmas-lectures/2017-thelanguage-of-life/tickets
Working with Westminster The BPS All Party Parliamentary Group for Psychology is set to meet for the second time in November. The APPG, chaired by Scottish National Party MP and clinical psychologist Dr Lisa Cameron, held its inaugural meeting in July and aims to raise awareness of the discipline among policymakers. The BPS acts as secretariat for the group, which also includes Labour MP Luciana Berger, President of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health, and represents all areas of psychology. In its coming meetings the group will hear speakers discuss topics such as psychology at work, dementia and obesity – all organised by the Society. Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, BPS Policy Director, said that recent political events and shifting social trends had demonstrated that psychology was more relevant
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now than ever. ‘Sustaining increasingly stretched public services is a challenge, and we are all acutely aware of the ever-increasing demand on services as a result of large and persistent health challenges like dementia, obesity and mental health. At the same time, concerning psychological trends need a concerted response – levels of social trust are low, inequality is rising, and huge political upheavals, like Brexit, have left societies divided. The evidence, interventions and frameworks of understanding that psychology provides can help people and policymakers respond to challenges, make sense of social trends and understand people better. The APPG on psychology is uniquely placed to come up with responses to these challenges, to ultimately enhance people’s lives and communities as well as our wider society as a whole.’
To find out more about BPS policy work see www.bps.org. uk/news-andpolicy/listing/ policies-andimpact
Radical change at heart
Our snacking frequency seems to be related more strongly to the presence of cues in the environment – such as seeing someone else snacking, or seeing a tempting sweet – than to our levels of willpower. That’s according to researchers who asked participants to use a phone app to track their snacking and environmental cues for two weeks (British Journal of Health Psychology) Trans men diagnosed with gender dysphoria showed unusual connectivity patterns in their brains in areas involved in thinking about the self. This was in comparison to both cis male and female controls, which the researchers said does ‘not support the hypothesis that sexual differentiation of the brain of individuals with gender dysphoria is in the opposite direction as their sex assigned at birth’. (Brain Imaging and Behaviour) A meta-analysis has found that teenagers and children who practise martial arts tend to be less aggressive. Through the teaching and practices of martial arts, participants were better able to gain a sense of control over both the situations and themselves, leading to fewer negative emotional responses and violent behaviours (Aggression and Violent Behaviour) MDMA/Ecstasy seems to enhance the effectiveness of psychotherapy for previously treatment-resistant PTSD by facilitating beneficial personality change, especially increased openness. The findings come from a small study of 20 participants with a diagnosis of PTSD related to war or crime-based experiences. (Journal of Psychopharmacology) By Dr Christian Jarrett. These studies were covered, along with many more, by him, Dr Alex Fradera and Emma Young on our Research Digest at www.bps.org.uk/digest
News online: Find more news on our website at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/reports, including ‘science in the van’ at the Latitude Festival. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @psychmag.
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Professor Chris Armitage
The British Psychological Society and its Behaviour Change Advisory Group has added to its behaviour change briefings on important areas including alcohol consumption and persistent absence from school. Professor Chris Armitage’s (University of Manchester) briefing on responsible alcohol consumption opens with stark statistics. Despite many public health campaigns and legal restrictions aimed at reducing alcohol consumption, alcohol-related admissions to English hospitals increased from 510,800 in 2002/3, to 1,057,000 in 2009/10. A report from 2003 estimated the misuse of alcohol cost the UK economy up to £20 billion. Armitage told us he was keen to be involved with writing the briefing due to a frustration that much policy seems to be based on common sense rather than high-quality evidence, and psychology has much to offer in terms of offering solutions beyond common sense. However, many psychologists are left torn between giving definitive evidence, which can take years, and providing informed advice, which could contain flaws. In his briefing Armitage outlined the evidence we have on alcohol consumption, introducing a minimum priceper-unit of alcohol has been estimated to reduce alcohol consumption, crime, alcohol-related hospital admissions and mortality. However, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this idea was abandoned, and despite legislation passing in Scotland in 2012 for a minimum price per unit this still has not been implemented due to legal challenges. Advertising for alcohol is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority which has 16 rules for alcohol advertisements, however studies have shown that consumers see many breaches of these rules. As Armitage pointed out, such policy interventions ignore individual behaviours and differences: people don’t react uniformly to them. Armitage has made recommendations to the government that include working with a broader range of interest groups to ensure the best possible evidence is used in guiding policy. He also suggested developing clinical definitions of concepts such as binge drinking, and hazardous and problematic drinking, to ensure those who fit those definitions are aware that certain health messages may apply to them. He added that an investment should be made in developing a programme of behavioural sciences research dedicated to improving policy-level and individual-level psychological interventions to bring about sustained reductions in alcohol consumption.
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difficulties lead to school absence rather than vice versa. These persistent absentees account for more than half of unauthorised absence, and there are an estimated 12,000 children and young people in England who are absent from any kind of formal education. The Department for Education, in 2012, made recommendations that led to the widespread use of fines on parents whose children were absent from school. However, this approach, Apter wrote, is unlikely to have an effect on those children who frequently miss school, and according to psychological first principles we know punishment is rarely useful in modifying behaviour. Apter listed several categories of psychological Dr Brian Apter factors that can help to explain persistent absence; these problems can be emotionally based, related to physical A long-time advocate for policy involvement, Armitage health, due to attitudinal or systemic issues or related to behaviour in school. Any child who is persistently absent, told us that while a cautious approach to informing policy Apter wrote, may be experiencing problems in a number is laudable, nature abhors a vacuum and there are many of those categories, and psychology has much to offer in people who are not psychologists but who will provide terms of interventions for issues in all of them. psychological-type advice based on simple, definitive In his recommendations to schools Apter suggested answers that are not rooted in high-quality evidence. creating an environment that is inclusive and that excites He said: ‘It boils down to answering the question “Would curiosity and a joy of learning in students. He also you rather have the informed opinion of a psychologist or recommended that schools should have psychological someone else’s opinion?”, but the answer is never easy competence at the core of their improvement agendas, – most of us prefer simple, definitive answers. I would encouraging the development of like the government to recognise that nurturing, valuing and understanding behaviour change is complex and their most complex students. that scientific research in this area We spoke to Apter about his has at least as much to offer as more briefing. ‘Two things we’ve discussed purely biological research in terms of in the Behaviour Change Advisory improving the health of the nation.’ Group is the way we quibble with each Educational psychologist Dr Brian other,’ he said. ‘In fact, somebody Apter, Chair of the BPS Division of who’s now retired actually describes Educational and Child Psychology, a collection of psychologists as wrote a briefing on school attendance, a quibble of psychologists. We’re exclusion and persistent absences, so keen to shoot each other down an issue that has hit the headlines in because the evidence isn’t quite recent weeks as a new study revealed correct, but that means that school exclusion is linked to longdocuments go out quite slowly, but it term mental health problems (tinyurl. also means we word ourselves almost com/yavdjpnm). too carefully.’ Absences from school are a Apter said the document had contentious issue, with parents now Absences from school are a radical educational reform at its being fined for even occasional pupil contentious issue heart: ‘People have started talking absence, although this approach is about the joy of learning – the idea is that kids naturally not evidence-based. Apter wrote: ‘The conclusion that a enjoy learning, and there’s much evidence to back that student cannot afford to miss even a few days at school up, but we make learning an unenjoyable, horrible thing without a significantly detrimental effect appears to be they have to do. Michael Gove was the absolute anathema based on the unsubstantiated beliefs of teachers, parents of true joy in learning and we’re hoping to fight back. The and politicians rather than on quantitative longitudinal idea of radical education is built into this document.’ er studies that isolate effects measurably caused by school absence.’ Indeed, the evidence points to persistent absence as To read the briefings described here as well as past more troubling, being correlated with crime and mental briefings on issues such as voter apathy, physical health difficulties, and it seems these mental health inactivity and personal debt see tinyurl.com/qgdpo9p
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Big stars, big ideas, big data
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A stellar line up assembled in Leicester for this year’s Social Psychology Section Annual Conference, with an opening keynote from one of the brightest stars of them all – Professor Michelle Ryan (University of Exeter). Along with Alex Haslam, Ryan has researched and popularised the ‘glass cliff’ notion of women being promoted into precarious positions. Here, she gave an idea-packed, timely talk on how context constrains career choices. Ryan shows that the focus of explanations surrounding women in the workplace has changed over time, from external barriers to women’s choices, and that ‘a lot of the rhetoric around women’s choices is somewhat problematic’. For example, the Sheryl Sandberg inspired ‘Lean in’ meme urges women ‘Fortune favours the bold… you’ll never know what you’re capable off until you try’, and ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ But this places the onus on women, ignores continuing structural barriers, and potentially delegitimises initiatives that try to do something about them. Ryan argues that our ambition and willingness to sacrifice do not occur within a social vacuum, and that it’s actually exposure to relatively male-dominated environments that causes an observed ‘drop in ambition’ in women: not the biological clock. Her research suggests that it is ‘fit’ – how like you the people ahead of you in the organisation are – that has the main impact on career ambition, commitment and perceptions of work–life balance. Ryan also looked at career choices within an accountancy firm. Women were significantly less likely to say they were willing to make sacrifices or take risks, perceiving the benefits as lower. This, Ryan argued, may simply reflect the real-world differences in pay and promotion prospects. All in all, it is incumbent upon workplaces to provide something to ‘lean in’ towards. A symposium convened by Clifford Stevenson (Nottingham Trent University) considered barriers to group-based support: When can the ‘social cure’ overcome the ‘social curse’? Talks included Blerina Kellezi’s study of social identities and mental health services access in immigration removal centres, Mhairi Bowe applying a similar approach to food banks in the UK, and Niamh McNamara showing similar ‘identity work’ in the transition from child and adolescent to adult mental health services. (Find more in the online version of this). Dr Keon West, director of Goldsmiths’ ‘Equalab’, then presented fascinating research on asymmetrical definitions of sexuality. Is it easier to ‘become gay’ than to ‘become straight’? He presented participants with vignettes of ‘gay James’ and ‘straight James’. If ‘Gay James’ kissed a woman participants still saw him as ‘70 per cent gay’; but if ‘straight James’ kissed a man participants saw him as ‘less than 50 per cent straight’ … ‘in other words, gay’! A follow-up study suggested that such findings are not about simple prejudice or gender identity – as with social categories of race, it’s about power and privilege and protecting hierarchies.
Closing the first day was a mid-career award for Dr Tim Wildschut (University of Southampton), who presented his research on the interpersonal benefits of the expression of nostalgia. The concept is very crossculturally robust – people the world over tend to think about it in more or less the same way, as a ‘joy tinged with sadness’. Asking undergraduates to ‘take a picture of yourself making a nostalgic face’ led to lots of selfies with averted gaze, a small smile, often with chin on hand. Experimental research making use of the averted gaze and small smile showed that nostalgia ‘humanises one in the eyes of the audience’: nostalgic people are perceived as more communal, and in possession of important psychological resources. Wildschut concluded that nostalgia could be, in Gordon Allport’s terms, a ‘specific technique for accelerating acquaintance’, for example through ‘neighbourhood festivals’ that promote a vivid sense of communality. Highlights of day two included a round table discussion with Professor Stephen Reicher taking us ‘From Trump to Turkey’ in order to build solidarity with academics at risk. Reicher concluded that ‘we can work to show at least personal-level solidarity, allow a coming together to support people in various countries’. Before lunch, a thought-provoking talk from Dr Catherine Lido (University of Glasgow) introduced us to the Urban Big Data Centre, a research resource promoting the use of innovative methods and complex urban data to address global city challenges. Lido’s is a thoroughly modern, interdisciplinary and invigorating approach to research – ‘we collected data with no research questions’, using household surveys, GPS sensors, lifelogging cameras, social media capture, and more. All of this can begin to address questions around ecological, financial and health literacy, and their relationship with aspects such as lifelong learning and general health. ‘Other people are collecting this data,’ Lido urged, ‘why not use it?’ Closing the conference was a legend of social psychology, Professor Jonathan Potter (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), using contemporary discursive psychology to capture the practice of shaming. Potter argued passionately that ‘psychology is a topic in and for interaction…in the settings in which it is live, for the people for which it is live’. For Potter, this doesn’t mean experiments, surveys or interviews. It’s about records of actual behaviour, and he believes ‘the textbooks systematically avoid looking at this stuff’. His use of video footage of family mealtimes to investigate threats and admonishments was a timely reminder that in social psychology, it’s often the little things that mean a lot. And these overlooked, everyday aspects – in Barker and Gump’s terms, ecological psychology – are far from trivial, with Potter revealing that he liaises with health authorities over the significance of these interactions for eating behaviour and therefore public health. js
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Genetic differences in responses to exercise Have you seen those people who come out of an exercise class with a spring in their step and self-satisfied smile on their face? They really pushed themselves this time and now they’re riding that endorphin high. To them, the ache and burn feels good. But it’s not so for everyone. Others find exercise unpleasant and unrewarding – the aches just, well, ache. Psychologists call this difference the ‘affective response to exercise’ and in a paper in Psychology of Sport and Exercise researchers in the Netherlands report new evidence that it is to a significant degree genetically inherited. Nienke Schutte at VU University Amsterdam and his colleagues recruited 115 pairs of identical twins who share the same genes, 111 pairs of non-identical siblings who share roughly half their genes, 35 of their non-twin siblings, and another six non-twin sibling pairs (aged 12 to 25). The participants completed a 20-minute non-vigorous ride on an exercise bike and a nonvigorous 20-minute treadmill run. Their breathing was monitored to ensure the exercise didn’t become vigorous. There were also warm-up and warm-down periods, and there was a second brief exercise ride to exhaustion. While exercising, participants periodically rated how they were
feeling on a scale from very bad to very good, how much they felt they were exerting themselves, and how much they were feeling various adjectival states, such as energetic, lively, jittery or tense. From these measures the researchers established the participants’ affective response to exercise. The researchers also interviewed the participants about how much and how often they participated in voluntary sport and exercise in their everyday lives. By looking to see if affective response to exercise was more similar between identical twins than non-identical twins, the researchers were able to deduce how much it is genetically inherited (its ‘heritability’ – in other words, how much the differences in the subjective experience of exercise between people is due to genetic influences). The heritability for the affective response to exercise was significant. For instance, using the simple feeling scale, heritability was 15 per cent for the moderate cycle; for perceived exertion during the treadmill it was 35 per cent; and for the adjectival rating scale, heritability varied from 17 to 37 per cent for non-vigorous exercise, and 12 to 37 per cent for the ride to exhaustion, with the figure depending on the adjectives looked at. Getty Images
Moreover, and as logic would dictate, affective response to exercise correlated positively with how much exercise the participants did in their everyday lives: those who found exercise more pleasant engaged in more exercise. And the analysis suggested genetic overlap between these measures: in other words, many of the same genes that influence the affective experience of exercise seem to be the same genes that influence how active people are in their lives. One caveat: causal direction hasn’t been established here. It’s possible that doing more exercise can change how we experience exercise. In which case perhaps it is the known heritability of inclination to do exercise that is driving the apparent heritability of the affective response to exercise. It is likely that the influences are mutual. Another possibility is genetic pleiotropy in which the same genes have separate effects on different outcomes. This study has uncovered a point of principle – that whether we experience exercise as pleasant or unpleasant is to a significant degree influenced by our genes. Establishing what those specific genes are, and what their other functions might be, is for the future. One candidate gene that the researchers mention is the gene that codes for brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a peptide that has been shown to moderate the influence of exercise on mood. Perhaps most interesting is the practical implications this line of research could have for interventions to help people take up more exercise. If some of us are genetically inclined to find exercise less fun and rewarding we might especially benefit from personalised exercise programmes that aim to reduce its arduousness and make it as enjoyable as possible. Dr Christian Jarrett for the Research Digest www.bps.org.uk/digest Read the article: tinyurl.com/ y9b4h7bk
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Prejudice, geography and politics This year’s Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (PsyPAG) conference was held at the University of Northumbria. Ella Rhodes was there.
Political ideologies seem to have strong geographical correlations, the southern states of the USA being extraordinarily conservative while northern states lean left. Brian O’Shea (University of Warwick), who received the Rising Researcher Award at PsyPAG, has examined the role of parasites and diseases to help explain the ultimate causal factor for how these beliefs emerge. Those who support either conservative or liberal ideologies tend to differ: conservatives tend to be older, more religious and prejudiced towards outgroups, while the opposite is true for liberals. Political beliefs have been explained by personality, social contagion and family upbringing, but what if there was one overall factor that made it more likely a person was left or right leaning? Infectious diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide, O’Shea said, and, given their devastating impact, humans may have developed strategies to slow their transmission. Parasite stress theory suggests people in areas with low disease rates are more likely to have liberal ideologies, and a more open worldview, and higher-disease-rate areas have more conservative people. This goes some way to explaining the fear of outgroups seen among conservatives: perhaps those in high-disease-stress areas may avoid contact with outgroups to avoid catching diseases. As a catch-all rule, countries that are further from the equator have fewer problems with diseases: even within the USA disease rates are higher in southern states, which also tend to be more conservative. Indeed, when examining beliefs among those in high-diseaserate areas we find more collectivist cultures with restricted sexual practices. They tend to be conformist and ethnocentric, and these patterns remain even when applying control variables. When people are primed with pictures of diseases they are more likely to see others as more dissimilar – O’Shea said this suggested people
employ avoidance strategies when they feel the threat of disease. O’Shea has been working with Project Implicit, an online virtual laboratory that has collected data from people in the USA on multiple measures such as political ideology, religious belief, right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation – which reveals social and political attitudes. His research assessed whether those in regions with higher disease rates were more conservative. O’Shea also looked at infectious disease rates in every state over a 15-year period. He found that for those living in US states with higher disease rates, parasitic stress was a significant predictor of more religious beliefs and a more conservative worldview (even when controlling for age, gender, education, income and population density), and those people were more likely to endorse right-wing beliefs. He also found that parasitic stress predicted social dominance orientation, particularly the dominance subscale which measures beliefs about dominating outgroups. O’Shea also used the Implicit Association Test, which uses photos and either positive or negative words to supposedly reveal racial bias. People in higher-diseaserate states had higher implicit and explicit prejudices towards all sorts of outgroups. White people in states with high disease rates had an increased preference for white people, and the same was true for black people experiencing higher disease stress, who preferred black people. O’Shea’s work reveals that people in areas with high disease stress tend towards having more prejudice towards outgroups, which could be explained by avoiding disease transmission. He suggested the efforts governments make in reducing diseases could be used to improve relationships between groups and promote progressive values.
Sexting on the rise
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For the uninitiated, sending sexual texts is also known as sexting, and ongoing research seems to indicate it’s more common among adults than you might think. Dr Zara Brodie and Dr Claire Wilson (both University of the West of Scotland) found more than 70 per cent of their sample had sexted in the previous six months. Brodie and Wilson were keen to look into the emerging phenomenon, which hasn’t been researched in great depth yet. In earlier studies of sexting, prevalence rates have
shown between 9 and 39 per cent of adolescents do it, while 45 to 55 per cent of adults have. Similarly, the effects of sexting on relationships, and the personality and social factors that may predict sexting, are near unknown. As the researchers pointed out, while we may fear sexting, and perhaps with good reason, there’s a chance it can have positive effects on relationships. So far Brodie and Wilson have almost 200 participants between the ages of 17 and 58 who have
completed online questionnaires about their sexting behaviour, social learning theory factors, ‘dark triad’ and ‘big five’ personality tests. Just
the psychologist october 2017 conference
Undergraduate award Jenna Gillett’s (University of Buckingham) dissertation research, which has been recently published in the British Journal of Pain, received the Undergraduate Award from PsyPAG and has been honoured by a prize from her university. She wanted to explore whether extraversion, neuroticism and the anticipation of pain had any impact on how painful the dreaded cold-pressor experiment was for participants. Pain has psychological and physiological elements, and the mere anticipation of being hurt can make the actual sensation seem worse. Gillett outlined various studies in this area, including how negative pain expectation leads to this worse experience of pain. Gillett also wanted to assess whether low extraversion and high neuroticism played a part, given that those with neurotic tendencies experience more headaches, while more introverted people feel pain more intensely. Females and older people also have lower pain thresholds, while redheads have higher pain thresholds and tolerances. The picture of pain is obviously a complex one. Volunteers from the Buckinghamshire area were given questionnaires on neuroticism, extraversion and submissiveness – to control for how suggestible people were regarding the anticipation
manipulation. They then went through the cold-pressor test – essentially a container of 1°C water which they placed their hand into for as long as they could, up to a safety point known only by the researcher. Participants in an intense pain condition were told the average length of time most people held their hands in the water was 30 seconds – thus increasing their negative anticipation of the experience. Others were in the moderate pain condition were told the average time a person could usually withstand the cold pressor was four minutes.
When comparing pain tolerance from the intense and moderate conditions Gillett found people’s pain thresholds were almost double in the moderate condition. People seemed to be detecting pain much quicker when they were told most people could bear the pressor for only 30 seconds. However when assessing the difference between the experimental groups and control group, who just carried out the coldpressor, there was no significant effect of anticipation on people’s pain tolerance and threshold overall. She also found that neuroticism and extraversion didn’t moderate the effects. Gillett said she had a more extraverted sample than average and the control and moderate pain groups were very similar in their pain tolerance and threshold, which could go some way to explaining these results. However, this research has still examined a new area in a novel way, and with more exploration could lead to pain relief interventions for those personality types who may need it. Other awards at the conference were the DART-P and PsyPAG teaching award for Sophie Homer (Plymouth University), and the Masters Award for Jessica Barber (Royal Holloway, University of London).
over 72 per cent of that sample had sexted within the last six months, 72 per cent of those were to a romantic partner and 39 per cent to ‘someone else’, which can include casual partners. This leap in prevalence compared with earlier studies may be an anomaly, but Brodie suggested it could indicate wider acceptance of sexting. Younger people in the sample tended to sext more, and more males than females sent sexual messages. When looking at the results in the
context of social learning theory people were more likely to sext a romantic partner if they had positive attitudes towards sexting and had friends who did the same. The same applies to those sexting someone else, but reinforcement from the recipient was also an important factor – perhaps, the researchers suggested, in the early days of sexting we need to feel that it will have positive consequences. Quite surprisingly, the only personality factor that has, so
far, shown to have a significant relationship to sexting is Machiavellianism. Perhaps those on the higher end of psychopathic or narcissistic scales have more problems in close relationships. Machiavellianism has also been linked to sexual deception, which could explain the link. The researchers also found sexting wasn’t related to sexual or relationship satisfaction, but it’s worth remembering these are preliminary findings.
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Hazardous to health? Sarah Mackenzie Ross considers whether exposure to chemical substances could be damaging your brain
Environmental and industrial chemicals could be having an impact on psychological wellbeing. Should healthcare professionals be receiving training in toxicology?
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e live in a society awash with chemicals, some of the most common being petrol, diesel, carbon monoxide emissions, pesticide residues, plastics, flame retardants, solvents, diverse synthetic chemicals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metals. We can be exposed to these chemicals through food, water, inhalation and skin contact, and in different settings such as homes, schools or in the workplace. The manufacture and use of industrial chemicals has increased more than 15-fold in the past 70 years, and concern is growing about the impact on human health. It has been estimated that over 100,000 toxic substances are in commercial use and approximately 2300 new chemicals are developed and submitted for registration every year. The capacity for industry to produce new chemicals outstrips research, which means our understanding of the long-term health effects of many substances is limited. Industrial chemicals are not evaluated to the same degree as pharmaceutical products. Before a new prescription drug is licensed for use in the UK, it goes through a prolonged process of development and approval, incorporating laboratory and animal testing followed by clinical trials on human volunteers and patients. This process can take 10â€“15 years to complete and is very expensive. In contrast, the regulatory framework for industrial chemicals allows many products to enter the marketplace that have not been thoroughly evaluated. Neurotoxic substances can have a wide spectrum of effects. They may injure the nervous system directly, damaging dendrites, axons, myelin, neurons or supporting cells; they can interfere with neurotransmission; and they may damage organs such as the liver and kidneys, causing a build-up of toxic substances in the blood. Neurotoxic substances can also interfere with other processes, such as immune function, protein synthesis, energy conversion, oxygen transport and gene expression. In an ideal world the doseâ€“response relationship for each potential health effect would be known, but ethical, financial and methodological constraints and concern for the welfare of animals mean only a small number of health outcomes are studied (such as acute effects and mortality). Few chemicals are subjected to behavioural
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paper Philippe Grandjean and Philip Landrigan and neurological analysis, yet many substances have reviewed the scientific evidence linking exposure to the potential to interfere with nervous system function industrial chemicals and neurodevelopmental disorders causing cognitive, emotional and behavioural change. and concluded that genetic factors alone are unable to An increasing number of clinical and account for the increased prevalence of these disorders epidemiological studies have appeared in the literature and that exposure to neurotoxic over the last four decades exploring substances during critical stages the neurobehavioural consequences “…exposure to neurotoxic of brain development can cause of exposure to toxic substances. brain injury at doses much lower Unfortunately they differ in terms substances during than those affecting adult brain of methodological quality, study critical stages of brain functions. They recommend that design and study populations development can cause all existing and new chemicals be making it difficult for researchers and policy makers to reach firm brain injury at doses much tested for neurodevelopmental conclusions regarding the toxicity lower than those affecting neurotoxicity, and they constructed a list of substances thought to be of many chemicals. It is only in adult brain functions” particularly dangerous, such as the last decade that researchers lead, methylmercury, PCBs and have tried to resolve some of these pesticides. outstanding scientific controversies Other researchers have suggested the rise by applying systematic review techniques, commonly in neurodegenerative disorders may be due to used in healthcare, to summarise, aggregate, quantify increased exposure to industrial and environmental and statistically analyse the findings of earlier work. chemicals, because common targets and pathways Such reviews of this literature have led some have been found to underlie pesticide exposure and researchers to attribute the rise in neurodevelopmental neurodegeneration. Fernando Sánchez-Santed and disorders to increased exposure to industrial and colleagues reviewed the literature last year, concluding environmental chemicals. For example, in a 2014 Getty Images
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that the association between pesticide exposure and Parkinson’s disease is compelling, but less so for Alzheimer’s disease. Many other researchers have reported a link between exposure to industrial and environmental chemicals and the development of mood disorders and cognitive impairment during adolescence and adulthood. Pesticides are one of the most frequently studied substances, organophosphate pesticides (OPs) in particular. Animal studies show OPs have a detrimental effect on the neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation, memory and learning, which could explain the association between pesticide exposure and neuropsychological and psychiatric symptoms so frequently reported in epidemiological studies (Mackenzie Ross et al., 2013; Stallones & Beseler, 2016). Key sources Studies have also identified individuals who are at greater risk of developing ill health Studies by Sánchez-Santed et al.; following exposure to toxic Stallones & Beseler; Rohlman et al.; and Zhang et al.; plus the case study substances because of interof MP all appear in a special section individual differences in the of the neuroscience journal Cortex on capacity to metabolise and neurotoxicology, published in January detoxify certain chemicals. For 2016, pages 353–475. example, gender differences exist in the ability to detoxify certain Clarke, S., Keshishian, C., Murray, V. et al. (2012). Screening for carbon chemical substances, alcohol monoxide exposure in selected being a particularly well-known patient groups attending rural and example; and 4 per cent of the urban emergency departments in population are unable to metabolise England: A prospective observational organophosphate compounds study. BMJ Open, 2, 1–8. doi:10.1136/ effectively. Children and the elderly bmjopen-2012000877 10.1136/ bmjopen-2012-000877 may be at greater risk of sustaining Grandjean, P. & Landrigan, P.L. neurotoxic damage than adults, (2014). Neurobehavioural effects of because the organs involved in developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurology, metabolising and excreting toxins 13, 330–338. (e.g. liver and kidneys) may Lezak, M.D. (2004). Neuropsychological not be fully developed, or may assessment (4th edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press. be compromised by ageing and Mackenzie Ross, S.J., Brewin, the co-existence of other health C.R., Curran, H.V. et al. (2010). conditions. The identification of Neuropsychological and psychiatric risk factors is particularly important, functioning in sheep farmers exposed as possible targets for prevention to low levels of organophosphate and/or intervention can then be pesticides. Neurotoxicology & Teratology, 32(4), 452–459. determined. Mackenzie Ross, S.J., McManus, Aside from inter-individual C., Harrison, V. & Mason, O. (2013). differences in the ability to Neurobehavioural problems following metabolise various neurotoxic low level exposure to organophosphate substances, people in particular pesticides: A systematic & metaoccupations (e.g. farm workers, analytic review. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 443(1), 21–44. painters, transportation workers) van Wendel de Joode, B., Mora, A.M., or those who live in developing Lindh, C.H. et al. (2016). Pesticide countries are potentially at greater exposure and neurodevelopment risk than others because they may in children aged 6–9 years from be exposed to much higher levels Talamanca, Costa Rica. Cortex, 85, of toxic substances and adequate 137–150. protective clothing and monitoring Full list available in online/app version. may not be available. This is particularly true of individuals
who live in developing countries where health and safety regulation is lacking or ineffective. Agriculture is the main source of employment in many developing nations with anything between 50 and 90 per cent of the population employed in this industry. However, agricultural production in developing nations is very different to that seen in industrialised nations. Small farms are more prevalent in developing countries, and productivity is often limited by low income, poor education, lack of technological innovation and mechanisation, unproductive soil, drought, plant pests and diseases. As a result, farmers rely upon fertilisers and pesticides to increase yield. For example, government figures from China suggest that up to 123,000 people are acutely poisoned by pesticides each year; epidemiological studies of Chinese farm workers report a link between pesticide poisoning and both reduced cognitive function and increased psychiatric morbidity (Zhang et al., 2016). Studies from other parts of the world have identified adolescents as being at increased risk of sustaining psychological injury following pesticide exposure, as they are frequently employed by the agricultural industry to apply pesticides and have not yet reached maturity in terms of brain development. For example, Diane Rohlman and her team undertook a 10-month prospective study of adolescents employed to apply pesticides to cotton crops in Egypt and found that those with higher exposure (measured by urinary metabolites) performed significantly worse on neuropsychological tests (including psychomotor speed, attention and executive function) than those with lower exposures; and, worryingly, the deficits persisted for several months after the application season had ended. Other researchers have found that merely living near agricultural fields or crop plantations where pesticides are routinely used can be risky. A cross-sectional study of 140 children living close to banana and plantain farms in Costa Rica (van Wendel de Joode et al., 2017) observed a link between higher urinary markers of exposure to pesticides and poorer performance on tests of working memory, attention, processing speed, learning and visuo-motor coordination. The findings from developing nations are particularly concerning because chemical
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from nerve conduction studies that revealed mild peripheral neuropathy and an MRI brain scan that found a single area of high signal intensity in the white matter of the right temporal lobe. MP’s symptoms were repeatedly attributed to non-organic/ psychological factors by clinicians. ‘My interest in toxicology began He was given various diagnoses early in my career when I including pseudodementia, worked in general hospitals and hysterical aphonia and depression. The role of the psychologist undertook research into the However, MP’s general There is an urgent need for neurotoxicity of prescribed drugs practitioner was not convinced increased awareness and further used in oncology, diabetic and his condition was psychological in research into the neurotoxicity renal medicine. Over the years origin. The GP questioned whether of industrial and environmental my remit broadened to include pesticide exposure might be to chemicals, and psychologists have environmental and industrial blame, because MP was a partan important role to play in both chemicals as an increasing time farmer, but later discovered clinical and research settings with number of patients were referred that MP handled a substance regard to detecting and evaluating to me who had been exposed to called manganese on a regular the effects of toxic substances on toxic substances in the home or basis at work. The GP concluded psychological wellbeing. At present workplace. this was the most plausible cause few healthcare professionals receive In 2004 I set up the of his symptoms. MP’s condition training in toxicology and are Neuropsychological Toxicology deteriorated as did his cognitive unlikely to consider a toxic cause Unit (NTU) at UCL, the first of its function, which prompted referral for a patient’s presenting symptoms. kind, to promote understanding for neuropsychological assessment. Even if they do, they frequently and recognition of the ways in Neuropsychological assessment harbour misconceptions regarding which toxic substances affect found evidence of intellectual the toxicity of various chemicals human behaviour, cognition decline. Although well-learned and likely health outcomes. So and emotion.’ skills (vocabulary, verbal reasoning, how does a patient who has been social comprehension, mental exposed to toxic substances arithmetic) were relatively well typically present and what sort Sarah Mackenzie Ross preserved and in the average range, of misconceptions do healthcare is an Honorary Senior Lecturer, performance on tests of visuospatial professionals usually hold? A case Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, ability, processing speed, working study might help here, taken from a University College London memory, verbal and visual memory special section of the neuroscience firstname.lastname@example.org were weak and in the borderline journal Cortex on neurotoxicology to low-average range. MP’s scores in 2016. on two tests of executive function MP was a 59-year-old fisheries were abnormal. Assessment of mood suggested he worker who had been exposed to toxic chemicals did not meet criteria for a diagnosis of depression. at work and presented with a 10-year history of His symptom profile and progression were noted to deteriorating health, neurological problems and cognitive impairment. MP’s initial symptoms consisted have much in common with manganese poisoning, which occurs in three stages and takes up to 10 years of fatigue and intermittent muscle weakness, and he was initially diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. to progress. Initial symptoms of manganese poisoning are usually fatigue and weakness. The second stage MP presented at emergency departments on several involves the development of cognitive impairment occasions over the next 10 years complaining of (memory and language difficulties) and emotional intermittent loss of power in his legs (causing him to instability. In the final stage, symptoms resemble fall), numbness and loss of sensation in various parts those seen in Parkinson’s disease. There is no effective of his body, left-sided weakness, memory and wordantidote for manganese poisoning, and patients will finding and spelling difficulties (commented on by progress through the three stages even in the absence colleagues at work). At one point he lost the power of further exposure. The mechanism by which of speech altogether. MP also reported alteration manganese exerts its effects is poorly understood, in mood (depression and irritability), for which he but mitochondrial disruption, direct damage to brain was prescribed antidepressant medication. He was tissue and biochemical changes have been postulated. evaluated by a number of different specialists over Apart from his GP, healthcare professionals the years including general physicians, neurologists, involved in evaluating MP failed to consider a toxic psychiatrists and psychologists. Routine medical cause for his symptoms. None asked him for details examinations failed to detect any abnormalities, apart manufacturing is expected to grow fastest in developing countries over the next five years, making it imperative that workers, employers, government officials and policymakers are educated about the potential risks involved in working with industrial chemicals.
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about his job, which meant the fact that he worked with manganese was missed. Even after chemical poisoning was suggested by his GP, several healthcare professionals dismissed it on the grounds that symptoms would not progress over time, a common misconception held by those with little training in toxicology. Furthermore, there was no biomarker of exposure as MP had retired from work before a toxic cause was considered, and this meant a definitive diagnosis was never reached. It is very important that blood tests and brain scans are undertaken as soon as possible after exposure has occurred as toxic metabolites may be excreted from the body within a matter of hours or days and changes observed on MRI often resolve following cessation of exposure. Unfortunately, patients often present long after exposure has ceased, because neither they nor their treating physicians have attributed their symptoms to toxic exposure, by which time routine medical and neurological investigations are likely to appear normal. Neuropsychological assessment however, can
Dedication In memory of Elizabeth Sigmund (1928â€“2017), who spent many years of her life campaigning against the production of chemical and biological weapons and educating the public, government officials, physicians and healthcare professionals about the risks involved in using organophosphate pesticides. In 1968 Elizabeth Sigmund became aware of the existence in Cornwall of a government operation researching the manufacture of nerve gases. She assembled an ad-hoc collection of scientists and doctors to gather information and develop a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of nerve gas. This campaign played some part in the progress towards the signing of the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 and its ratification in 1997. In the early 1990s and after contact with numbers of West Country farmers and farmworkers who suffered from health problems which they attributed to the use of organophosphate chemicals, particularly those used in sheep dips, Elizabeth started to record and collate these peopleâ€™s experiences. She made strong connections with doctors and neuroscientists, published a newsletter, briefed politicians and held meetings in Parliament. In 2001 she was invited to meet the Minister of Agriculture who subsequently setup a conference for researchers and from which government-sponsored research programmes were established, leading to a much greater awareness of the long-term effects of low-level exposure to organophosphates. In 1995 Elizabeth received the first Andrew Lees award from Media Natura, a national organisation of environmental journalists, and in 2001 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Plymouth. 26
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be very useful in these situations as it is often sensitive enough to detect subclinical effects. Indeed, it has been described by Muriel Lezak (1984) as the most sensitive means of examining the effects of toxic exposure. Research in toxicology Aside from clinical work, psychologists have an important role to play in research studies that seek to identify the cognitive, emotional and behavioural effects of neurotoxic substances. For example, in 2004 I was awarded a grant by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to study the neurotoxicity of low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides. The study involved neuropsychological and psychiatric evaluations of 127 farmers with a history of exposure to organophosphate pesticides, which are potent cholinesterase inhibitors. Farm workers with a history of low-level exposure to OPs performed significantly worse than unexposed control subjects and standardisation samples on tests of response speed, memory, mental flexibility and fine motor control. These deficits could not be attributed to other factors, such as mood or malingering, and correlations were found between exposure indices and neurobehavioural outcomes. However, causation could not be established from this retrospective study as no biomarker of exposure was available, only subjective reports; a common problem in many epidemiological studies. OP compounds are the substance we are most likely to be exposed to at some point in our lives, because they are not only found in many pesticide products, but are also used by industry as plasticisers, flame retardants and anti-wear and extreme pressure additives in lubricants and hydraulic fluids. Between 2006 and 2008 we undertook studies of another occupational group who believed their health had been adversely affected by exposure to OPs, namely aviation workers, who reported that they were routinely exposed to OPs contained in engine oil fumes. We published several articles on this subject and gave evidence to various government committees over the years; but again, no firm conclusions have been reached, and this topic remains highly controversial. Clinical issues The aim of this article is to provide readers with a snapshot of the interesting and challenging world of neurotoxicology and the clinical and research issues that need addressing. An unknown number of us will be exposed to neurotoxic substances during our lifespan, but lack of awareness and education in toxicology mean we are unlikely to attribute symptoms of ill health to toxic exposure, and the same may be true of the doctors we consult. The potential to misdiagnose or fail to diagnose may be high amongst UK physicians as they receive little training in toxicology, despite the fact that it is increasingly
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to treat individuals suffering from acute exposure to relevant in our lives. Clinicians do not routinely toxic substances, there is no provision for those who ask patients if they work with toxic substances, and report chronic ill health, and I can’t help but question many harbour dangerous misconceptions. Common misconceptions include the idea that exposure to toxic how many patients with medically unexplained symptoms and chronic health complaints or those substances is rare, when in reality half of the known referred to chronic fatigue or chronic pain clinics, neurotoxins are regarded as high production volume may actually be suffering from undiagnosed chemical chemicals that are widely used and disseminated in poisoning? the environment. Furthermore, an interesting study was published in 2012 by Clarke and colleagues, who undertook a prospective study of 1758 patients Future methodological considerations who presented to four UK accident and emergency There is an urgent need for further research as departments complaining of non-specific symptoms the potential toxicity of many substances remains (e.g. chest pain, breathing difficulties, headache, unknown, as does the long-term prognosis for flu-like symptoms). They found 4.3 per cent showed signs of carbon monoxide exposure that was unknown individuals exposed to them. Our knowledge regarding the biological mechanism of action to the patient or treating physician. of toxic substances is continually Another common evolving. misconception is the idea that ‘the “The potential to Although an increasing number dose makes the poison’, which misdiagnose or fail to of toxicological studies (clinical often gets interpreted to mean only diagnose may be high and epidemiological) have appeared high-level exposure to chemical substances will be harmful. amongst UK physicians as in the literature over the last four However, research is increasingly they receive little training decades, they differ in terms of methodological quality, study finding that cumulative low-level in toxicology, despite the design and study populations, exposure to chemical substances can be detrimental to health; fact that it is increasingly making it difficult for researchers and policymakers to determine that exposure to more than one relevant in our lives” whether the human health risks substance that uses the same of exposure to various industrial metabolic pathway in the human and environmental chemicals body may lead to increased toxicity, in the same way prescribed drug interactions can cause have been under- or overestimated. Although a subjective component will always remain in the ill effects; and that inter-individual differences exist in process of systematic review, such methods could the capacity to metabolise certain substances. prove useful in terms of reducing bias, increasing Other misconceptions that lead to misdiagnosis transparency and identifying potential reasons for include the idea that there should never be a time lag disagreement. between exposure to a toxic substance and the onset Significant methodological challenges remain. It’s of symptoms and that symptoms should not progress following cessation of exposure; yet there are a number difficult to establish causal links between exposure and ill health, due to the non-specific nature of symptoms of substances that cause delayed neurological and reported across neurotoxicological studies, and it’s also psychiatric effects, such as methyl iodide, manganese difficult to obtain objective evidence of exposure or and carbon monoxide, to name but a few. corroborating medical evidence. The results of routine Furthermore, many clinicians appear sceptical medical tests are frequently normal, particularly if with regard to the possibility that industrial and they have been undertaken after exposure has ceased environmental chemicals affect health, yet physicians (with the exception of neuropsychology which appears exhibit no such scepticism when reflecting on the potential toxicity of prescribed medications (e.g. drugs sensitive enough to detect subclinical effects). We used in oncology that can cause cognitive impairment), need to identify sensitive, reliable and valid outcome recreational drugs and alcohol. Furthermore, clinicians measures and agree suitable testing protocols with other researchers, so that results can be aggregated and often fail to consider the possibility that neurological direct comparisons made across studies. and psychiatric symptoms might be caused by a Much could be gained from collaboration with mechanism other than the commercially exploited colleagues undertaking research in addiction to illicit mechanism of action of a substance. For example, the drugs as toxicologists face similar methodological commercially exploited action of OP pesticides is their challenges; and researchers in brain imaging and ability to inhibit cholinesterase, but animal studies biomarkers of nervous system injury could provide have shown that they interfere with many other bodily invaluable assistance in identifying the impact of systems and have a wide spectrum of effects. neurotoxic substances on the brain. Meanwhile, Successful treatment of chemical poisoning the presumption that industrial and environmental requires early diagnosis and cessation of exposure, but the misconceptions listed above increase the likelihood chemicals are safe unless proven otherwise needs to be challenged. of missed diagnosis. Although services exist in the UK
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Little scientists – big impact The Developmental Research Team at the University of Stirling explain why they love their psychology kindergarten Amongst run-of-themill ofﬁces in the Division of Psychology at the University of Stirling nestles a suite of rooms entirely dedicated to accommodating a fully operational (and occasionally quite noisy!) kindergarten facility.
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n the Division of Psychology at the University of Stirling, we regard our onsite kindergarten as one of our greatest assets. However, when we say this to others, we are used to encountering reactions that range from incredulity or uneasiness to plain bewilderment. Some assume that we maintain the kindergarten to provide a childcare facility for staff. Others, who understand that the primary function of the kindergarten is to facilitate our research and research-led teaching, seem to think that the childcare experience itself might be somehow compromised by this goal. Readers may be relieved to hear that we don’t keep the children under strictly controlled conditions, austere and isolated, like bacteria in a Petri dish. But we decided that it was time that we put the record straight more broadly. The kindergarten at Stirling University is unique in the UK, because it is run by the Psychology Division. Similar kindergartens have been available in other institutes in the past, for example at the Universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, but this seems to be becoming increasingly rare. We are aware of some similar facilities that are currently active and heavily used by psychology researchers but, to the best of our knowledge, not run by a psychology department (for example in Bangor and Lancaster). In this article we want to highlight how important our onsite kindergarten is for the Division of Psychology and what we think others might be able to learn from this model. We also wanted to pull together all the reasons why we think our psychology-run kindergarten provides a really outstanding experience – for students, for researchers, for parents, and also (in fact most of all) for the children. For teaching Undergraduate students may begin a university course in psychology without knowing which specific specialism they would like to pursue. One of our roles is to guide them in finding their own
the psychologist october 2017 psychology kindergarten
individual interests and motivation, and to provide an environment that supports active, engaged learning (see research from David Kemberâ€™s group: tinyurl.com/ k4sqcvm). This can be a real challenge when faced with 200 undergraduate students! In an effort to reduce passive teaching and to establish individual interests, Dr Eva Rafetseder is running so-called mini-projects. Student teams choose and read a developmental paper of their interest. They then design a simple follow-up study and carry out the study with a small group of children in the psychology kindergarten. Before they are allowed to collect the
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data, however, they must follow our ethical and safeguarding guidelines: 1. Seek ethical permission for the study. 2. Provide a parent information sheet to allow parents to opt their child out of the study. 3. Read and follow the kindergartenâ€™s guidelines and safeguarding procedures. 4. Read and follow the British Psychological Societyâ€™s code of human research ethics. Students then sign an agreement indicating that they have satisfied the above criteria, which will gain them a
research passport, giving them permission to run the study with children. When working with children in mini-projects, students can actively construct knowledge and make connections between theoretical approaches and their own experiences. Students often say that having carried out a mini-project with the children changes how they later read and interpret scientific developmental papers and how they process the lecture content. As one student framed it, miniprojects ‘provided excellent grounds for learning’. Students additionally gain insights into strict ethical procedures, and they learn whether they actually like working with children. The mini-projects also establish relevance, as students get to test theories they have heard about in lectures. In sum, most of the students regard this project-based learning as a very valuable experience, which is usually fun for both students and children. The kindergarten is not only a stimulating learning environment for undergraduate students, it also facilitates Dr Catherine Grainger in offering a range of meaningful experiences for students of the MSc in Child Development. Many of our postgraduate students are attracted to this course because of the kindergarten, which provides them with the chance to gain valuable research skills in developmental psychology. Each year, several child development students complete placements in the kindergarten, in which they gain hands-on experience interacting with pre-school children, and collect data for their own research projects. The kindergarten is set up with several video-monitoring testing rooms, and a one-way mirror observation room, which allows our students to use a variety of approaches ranging from observational studies to free-play paradigms to experimental studies.
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For research For research projects dependent on access to pre-school participants, the kindergarten represents an invaluable resource. Currently, the kindergarten is stimulating a wide variety of state-of-the-art research, such as understanding key developmental challenges (e.g. cognitive development, language acquisition, drawing inferences), social learning and cultural evolution as well as paediatric physical health. In many cases, involving the children from the kindergarten is not a substitute for offsite recruitment, but instead facilitates work carried out in association with external organisations. The kindergarten provides an ideal testing ground for novel tasks and datacollection protocols, ensuring that researchers can arrive at nurseries and other recruitment sites with robust and well-rehearsed methods. This minimises the demands on any staff responsible for providing access, and maximises the time-efficiency of data collection. In developmental psychology research, maintaining goodwill with partner organisations is absolutely critical, and since participants’ reactions to experimental procedures are notoriously hard to
predict, having the onsite kindergarten to pilot new protocols is a huge benefit! Having access to the kindergarten has therefore been pivotal to the success of a wide variety of research projects within Stirling’s Division of Psychology. This includes a large EU-funded project led by Professor Christine Caldwell (RATCHETCOG). Although the project also encompasses studies of adult participants and nonhuman primates, the developmental studies are key to the project’s overarching goal of understanding the cognitive mechanisms implicated in human cultural evolution. As an example, one of the recent RATCHETCOG studies, led by Dr Mark Atkinson and Dr Elizabeth Renner, investigates the relative benefits of socially and individually acquired information, and how these vary at different ages. Children take part in a simple task (a ‘find the monkey’ game) presented on a computer tablet. Testing various versions of this task in the kindergarten ensured that the final version of the game was clear and engaging enough to hold the interest of two- to five-year-old children. A child interviewed after she had participated in the game clearly expressed her enthusiasm: ‘When the monkey sprang out and fall on my head – that made me laugh!’ The opportunity for extensive pilot testing in the kindergarten not only facilitated a short timescale from initial experimental design to completed data collection, but also ensured our confidence in the robustness of our task design before contacting collaborators. Over 350 children have participated in this study at Glasgow Science Centre and, as part of a collaboration with researchers at Peking University, kindergartens in Beijing. Illustrating the diversity of the research taking place in the kindergarten, cognitive neuroscientists Dr Yee Lee Shing and Dr Jan Kuipers conduct studies using eye-tracking and wireless EEG. Dr Yee Lee Shing is generally interested in memory development. Using eye-trackers to measure gaze fixation, she is studying how our ability to infer a relationship between events that were not experienced together develops across young and middle childhood. The onsite kindergarten is particularly helpful for investigating neurocognitive development during the transitional period between pre-school and primary school. Dr Kuipers is developing the use of wireless EEG to replace the traditional wired EEG. Testing of this system, and how its output compares to traditional EEG, is still ongoing, but has been facilitated tremendously by the onsite kindergarten. The children of the kindergarten took part in a pilot study testing the wireless EEG and were fascinated to see their own brainwaves. Dr Kuipers is planning to study language development in children with this system. Having onsite access to a sample of under-fiveyear-old children has also enabled our staff to forge additional research links with other institutions, and carry out joint projects with institutions that do not have such readily available access to young participants. An ongoing project with researchers
the psychologist october 2017 psychology kindergarten
keeping, a place. Additionally, even from the Psychology Department if parents consented for their child at the University of Edinburgh, to participate in research, children for example, is both replicating themselves are always given the and extending some of their chance to say no before the start of recent work on the tendency for any research activity. Hence, this children to imitate the language reassures us that parents make an and non-linguistic actions of other active choice to enrol their child individuals. in our playgroup by seeing the Beyond supporting ongoing benefits. projects and collaborations, the Of course, it is important kindergarten is a unique feature to emphasise that running a that attracts new staff with wide kindergarten is not without its interests to the university, which challenges. Provision of a childcare is key to retaining a vibrant Thanks to Line Caes, Catherine service is a huge responsibility, and research community. Recently, the Grainger, Jan Kuipers, Mark managing the risks can generate a Psychology Division hired two new Atkinson, Yee Lee Shing, Eva lot of additional work. However, academic staff members interested Rafetseder, Christine Caldwell, feedback from parents and children in developmental research but with and Elizabeth Renner for is sought on a regular basis to a diverse background and focus. contributing to this article. ensure they remain content with Dr Catherine Grainger is interested www.stir.ac.uk/natural-sciences/ how the kindergarten is run. in understanding the nature of about-us/psychology/resources/ And like any other nursery, our autism spectrum disorder, while Dr playgroup kindergarten is subject to standards Line Caes is trying to understand and regulations, and is inspected pain experiences in children. regularly by the Care Inspectorate. Both indicated that the kindergarten Despite this, we believe the benefits vastly outweigh played a crucial role in their considering and accepting the challenges as we use our ongoing research to a permanent academic position at the University of support parents and children in their development. For Stirling. example, we use our one-way mirror to have parents Across various studies, we have informally observed that participating in research is an interesting observe their child on their first days in kindergarten. This allows children to get used to our facilities and positive experience for the children. As scientists, without disturbance by their parents, but at the same we would like to know more about this, so in the time lets parents closely supervise their child and near future our team plans to systematically examine intervene if they want to. the impacts of participating in research on children. As part of our impact strategy, we also provide For example, we would be interested in comparing parents with an overview of the results of our research, self-reports from children when they have and have which helps them stay up to date on new discoveries not taken part in research, to compare how study in the area of child development. At our annual Open participation may inﬂuence their levels of engagement Day in April, we present our most recent findings to and enjoyment that day in the kindergarten. current as well as potential future parents and answer questions they may have. We create a booklet at the end of term that summarises, in an attractive and For the children and families comprehensible way, what we have learned from Above all, the kindergarten is focused on being each study in which their children participated. a stimulating and nurturing environment for the And ‘research bites’ are developed at the end of the children (e.g. building confidence, helping develop studies: these short five-minute video interviews with a positive sense of self, exploring early literacy and the main researcher provide an overview of the aims mathematical concepts). The needs of the children and results of the study as well as the relevance of the (and their parents) always come first, with teaching findings. and research activities being fitted around the In conclusion, we are convinced that our kindergarten’s schedule and activities rather than the kindergarten delivers a variety of tangible benefits other way around! for families, students and staff. Its location at the While there is a small fee to enrol their child in very heart of our Psychology Division even brings the playgroup (£7 per 3-hour sessions), which is delightful indirect benefits into the bargain. (Does your lower than most other childcare services, this lower department get an annual visit from Santa? Ours does!) fee is not linked to our research practice. Enrolment We hope that by sharing our experience of running a in the playgroup is not contingent upon consent to kindergarten we might inspire and encourage others participate in research. Parents can opt from the start to consider setting up similar facilities at their own to not let their child participate in research and can institutions. Please get in touch with us if you would withdraw consent at any time, without placing their like to know more. child at a disadvantage with regard to getting, or
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the psychologist october 2017 simulation-based education
Simulation-based education Jennifer Cleland finds new perspectives on medical training, which could be used more widely in psychology too
hich way you ought to go depends on where you want to get to…’ Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Imagine you are a medical student. You are likely to practise communication skills with simulated patients or actors before consulting with real patients; you will be handed a pig gut to stitch before being allowed to carry out an operation under supervision; you would carry out a rectal examination on a mannequin before getting your hands on the real thing. This is simulation-based education (SBE). SBE is a means of allowing healthcare students and postgraduate trainees deliberate hands-on practice of clinical skills and behaviours prior to, and alongside, entry into clinical environments. The aim is to develop safe clinicians by creating alternative situations and settings in which to learn skills and behaviours. Simulation is required in healthcare education for a number of reasons. The traditional method of training our healthcare professionals – unstructured clinical experience – was shown to be educationally ineffective. Much healthcare education and training has therefore shifted to a competency- or outcomes-based model of teaching and learning, where objectives and outcomes, assessment and feedback, practice and supervision became the norm. Concurrently, reduced availability of patients for teaching and learning healthcare, due to changes in healthcare delivery as well as increased emphasis on protecting patients from unnecessary harm, has placed limits on the nature of patient contact (particularly for relatively inexperienced learners). Last but not least, in many countries, including the UK and the rest of Europe, hours of training have now been strictly controlled by working time legislation, leading to increased interest in alternative ways of learning. SBE addresses all of these issues – decreasing reliance on training on real patients, allowing for instant feedback for correction of errors and for directing learning, optimising use of valuable clinical time, enhancing the transfer of theoretical knowledge into the clinical context, and ensuring learners are competent before exposure to real patients. SBE has a long history in psychology teaching. The classic studies of Milgram and Zimbardo involved simulated environments. Undergraduate psychology teaching uses simulation in the form of case studies, role playing and interviewing. Yet, relatively speaking, the limited amount of research into this topic in psychology indicates that SBE is either underused, or underresearched. For example, a 2007 review by Flanagan and colleagues of 458 articles on simulation in healthcare found 95 per cent used simulation in medical populations but extremely limited use in allied health groups, which encompassed clinical psychology.
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This is a story of how openmindedness transformed a study, opening up a new area of research. It’s about the different demands of a field that isn’t the one you trained in. And it’s about how we can ensure we’re safe and effective in helping others.
The vast field of SBE research in medical education shows a positive relationship between SBE and learning outcomes, including the development of technical (e.g. inserting a cannula) and non-technical skills (e.g. communication, team working), learner confidence and, critically, patient outcomes and patient care practices (see, for example, a 2004 review led by William McGaghie). However, while it is absolutely crucial to know what works in SBE, limiting the focus of research to outcome and effectiveness studies means understanding of SBE remains limited. We need to extend the range of approaches to researching this field – if simulated training is based on limited models of learning, it risks inadequately preparing medical and other healthcare trainees for practice. With this in mind, my story focuses on my involvement in SBE. A cold call One day, I received a call from a surgical consultant based in Inverness, Ken Walker. Ken and colleagues had designed the ‘Highland Surgical Boot Camp’, an intensive, four-day simulation experience using experiential learning and hands-on practice to learn new skills and knowledge in a safe environment, based on the principles of a military boot camp. Highland Surgical Boot Camp was the first of its kind in the UK, aimed at new surgical trainees, and designed to
accelerate learners’ transition from the Foundation Programme (the first two years of generic training after medical school) into the surgical training pathway. The educational content included simulationrich training in non-technical, communication and operative surgical skills, including a simulated ward round, letter-writing sessions and role-play of difficult consultations. ‘Memorable case’ narrative sessions were designed to recreate the coffee-room discussions of the apprenticeship model. Formal social events were incorporated into the programme, and informal socialisation among learners was encouraged. Ken and his colleagues worked hard to establish this innovative programme, and after a couple of successful Boot Camps, had time to catch their breath and start thinking about evaluating Boot Camp. Ken had been given my name as an ‘expert’ in all things medical education research, a description that is flattering, if untrue. He asked if I would be interested in planning this evaluation and applying for a research grant to do so. We wrote a funding bid that focused on individual learning processes. Specifically, and drawing on the work of Tony Artino and his colleagues, our project proposed a theory-driven approach, self-regulation learning-microanalytic assessment and training (SRLMAT), to assess how participants generated and used feedback about their learning to optimise their strategic
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the psychologist october 2017 simulation-based education
Education. These chapters referred pursuit of personal goals during to various theories used in Boot Camp activities. We were exploring and understanding the successful in a competitive funding influence of people and context on process, and obtained a grant to learning, according to Vygotsky’s support this work from the Clinical notion that learning is a socially Skills Managed Educational constructed process. Network. The penny dropped: although And so the study commenced. designed to accelerating individual Our first task was obtaining ethical learning and skills acquisition, approval for activities including: Jennifer Cleland Boot Camp was inherently a social pre-camp telephone interviews is Professor (John Simpson activity, bringing together groups of with the participants (to assess Chair) of Medical Education trainees/residents (the learners) and motivations for signing up, and Research at the University Faculty, in a residential situation paying for Boot Camp, as well of Aberdeen, a Chartered away from the everyday clinical as very specific questions to do Psychologist and Associate environment. By recognising with self-regulated learning), Fellow of the BPS this explicitly, we could start to questionnaire completion, understand how the relationships observation and questioning during between Faculty, participants and Boot Camp tasks and social sessions. activities during Boot Camp influenced learning, the The Faculty were keen that I observe all sessions, nature and influence of what Frederic Hafferty and to generate new ideas for research and to give them Ronald Franks have called the ‘hidden curriculum’. feedback on the educational approaches they had We needed to grasp the cultural context, the wider designed and implemented. They talked freely and sociocultural, institutional and historical settings in enthusiastically about why Boot Camp was important which Highland Surgical Boot Camp was situated. and innovative, and how it fitted with wider surgical After communicating this new approach to our training. The participants, whom I had spoken to in funder, who generously continued to support the advance on the telephone, talked to me and between work, and ensuring necessary ethical amendments, themselves over coffees, during breaks, etc. I also we ran a parallel study. Our stance was that learning attended various social events, although I politely at Boot Camp was participative rather than merely declined the offer of tubing on a local river. In winter. acquisitive, that environment, In Scotland. It was a fascinating, rules, tools and social relations are fun few days. “Participants gained important to learning and knowing, On analysing the data we and that there are different valid identified individual variation in cultural capital in the perspectives on reality. We used SRL ability but no clear relationship form of learning what the theoretical resources of between SRL ability and selfknowledge, skills and Bourdieu and Engeström nested efficacy. We found that poorer within an overarching framework learners use outcome measures to values were needed to of complexity theory to help us judge their performance, but good succeed in the surgical tease out some of the key elements learners use process measures (in training system” via ethnographic observation and keeping with previous studies). interviews. These theories helped Weak and good learners were us make sense of a lot of data, and identified very quickly by Faculty, provided contrasting perspectives on Boot Camp. in line with the SRL-MAT data. This was fascinating We found very powerful messages of ‘welcome to stuff. Yet at the same time, something was at the back our world’ (the world of surgery) sent by a number of my mind – that there was more to Boot Camp than of formal and informal activities. And we identified met the eye. I started to question what we should be evaluating. why trainees signed up to Boot Camp – not just as a means of gaining skills and knowledge but also ‘insider It was dawning on me that my assumptions about surgical education, my relative lack of expertise in SBE information’ on how best to progress in surgical training and assessment. Participants gained cultural and my excitement about having an opportunity to capital in the form of learning what knowledge, skills use self-regulation theory and measurement had led and values were needed to succeed in the surgical me to look at Boot Camp solely in terms of a means training system. They also acquired social capital in of individual, cognitive and acquisitive learning. Of course, this is an essential perspective on SBE research, terms of extending their networks of influence and support. We teased out the complexity, and influence, but is it the only one? of the surgical training context on the nature and I examined the interview data afresh, and reread success of Boot Camp. We were able to explain the notes I had taken throughout the Boot Camp. how Boot Camp nested within a myriad of systems I was also editing some chapters sent in by colleagues (including Royal Colleges, the NHS, the General for inclusion in my book Researching Medical
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Medical Council) and to survive and thrive had to adapt in response to the multiple voices of the various organisations as well as those of surgical trainees. Then there was a context of many competing demands on trainees’ and residents’ time and money, where trainees tended to be very strategic in what training they attended. Rather than assuming that simulation occurs in a rarefied, predictable atmosphere, where there are no confounding variables or unpredictability, this was the first empirical study of a surgical Boot Camp to make explicit the social and cultural factors that were likely to influence learning in its broadest sense. The ethnographic data highlighted the explicit and hidden curricula of Boot Camp, of enculturation and socialisation into surgical training, and a way of participants gaining social capital in relation to both progressing in training and seeing what life was like for consultant surgeons. The paper of this study was published via open access early in August 2016. It won the inaugural Copenhagen Academy for Medical Education and Simulation (CAMES) prize for innovation in simulation research later that month. The paper from this work is already stimulating discussion and thinking in the field and, I hope, will lead to SBE architects acknowledging and addressing the social and cultural aspects of learning when planning similar enterprises across healthcare education.
Key sources Cleland, J.A., Abe, K. & Rethans, J.J. (2009). The use of simulated patients in medical education: AMEE Guide No 42. Medical Teacher, 31, 477–486. Cleland, J. & Durning, S.J. (Eds.) (2015). Researching medical education. London: Wiley-Blackwell. Cleland, J.A., Walker, K., Gale, M. & Nicol, L.J. (2016). Simulationbased education: Understanding the complexity of a surgical training ‘Boot Camp’. Medical Education, 50, 829–841. Issenberg, S.B., McGaghie, W.C., Petrusa, E.R. et al. (2005). Features and uses of high-fidelity medical simulations that lead to effective learning: A BEME systematic review. Medical Teacher, 27, 10–28. McGaghie, W.C., Issenberg, S.B., Barsuk, J.H. & Wayne, D.B. (2014). A critical review of simulation-based mastery learning with translational outcomes. Medical Education, 48, 375–385. Nel, P.W. (2010). The use of an advanced simulation training facility to enhance clinical psychology trainees’ learning experiences. Psychology Learning and Teaching, 9, 65–72. Full list available in online/app version.
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Back to psychology As someone with a broad training in psychology, including clinical psychology, and having worked in this subspecialty for many years, I cannot help but muse on the differences between SBE in medical education and applied psychology. Things do not seem to me to have moved on in psychology in the decade or so since Flanagan et al.’s paper: a quick literature search identified that there remain few studies of simulation education in this area and calls for more of it – for example from Pieter Nel in 2010 – seem to have been largely ignored.
Yet, like medical education and training, psychology is now positioned within an outcomesbased pedagogic model where trainees are required to achieve relevant standards of proficiency (overarching competencies). So why, in the British Psychological Society’s Standards for Doctoral Programmes in Clinical Psychology, is simulation mentioned only once, in relation to supervisor or programme staff observation and assessment of clinical skills in simulated situations (e.g. role plays involving service users, colleagues or actors)? Surely it is just as important for clinical psychology trainees as it is for surgical trainees to be assessed as baseline competent before working with patients? This is not just about courses teaching empirically supported therapies but also about ensuring trainees are competent in a range of technical (therapeutic) and non-technical skills before being allowed to work first under supervision, and then independently. My impression is that the barriers to simulation that were present in medical education 10–20 years ago, are probably pertinent to psychology now. Inevitably there remains a lack of evidence for the effectiveness of SBE in applied psychology, but we could draw on the multitude of work on simulation in clinical communication skills training in medicine to move forward, particularly work of this nature carried out in psychiatric settings (see Cleland et al., 2009). Any innovations must of course be accompanied by robust evaluation using different levels of assessment, from learner reactions through Kirkpatrick’s hierarchy, to patient outcomes. The parameters for effective SBE are certainly transferable from medicine to clinical psychology (e.g. repetitive practice, feedback, clinical variation, increasing difficulty: see Issenberg et al., 2005). The next barrier is a lack of expert faculty, and facilities. Yet there are centres that seem to have embraced this approach to learning within psychology and thus could extend their remit to training the trainers and operationalising SBE. As per Boot Camp, perhaps the best place for simulation in psychology is early in training, prior to exposure to real patients. Simulation is about skills learning: surely it is better to have trainees practise with simulated patients until they can demonstrate basic professional competencies? Change is never easy, but the irony is that many people developing and evaluating SBE in medical education are psychologists. Embracing SBE and other contemporary pedagogic models will open up new areas of educational practice and research in psychology, and allow us to gather evidence on which to base educational decisions.
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the psychologist october 2017 simulation-based education
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the psychologist october 2017 debate
Is testosterone the key to sex differences in human behaviour? Cordelia Fine argues no; Joe Herbert says yes Cordelia Fine: A common assumption, which I refer to as the ‘Testosterone Rex’ view, is that testosterone is a proximal tool of distal evolutionary processes, acting via the brain (prenatally, then from pubescence) to shape sex differences in behaviour that would have been differentially reproductively advantageous for men versus women in our ancestral past. Joe, as you put it in your book Testosterone: Sex, Power and the Will to Win, ‘for [male] reproduction to be successful, testosterone has to act on many parts of the male to make him fit for the competitive world of male sexuality’. So, for example, males’ greater testosterone exposure predisposes them to be more risk-taking and competitive than females – an idea sometimes called on to help explain gender gaps in risky and competitive occupations, a category which happens to include most high-status and well-remunerated roles. So what exactly does testosterone do? Testosterone acts directly on the brain, but the circulating level of testosterone in the blood is just one part of a highly complex, multifaceted system. What’s more, different species appear to tweak those system dials in different ways, enabling cross-species differences in relations between hormones and behaviour. What do we need to try to explain when it comes to humans? One important feature of sex differences in behaviour is that these are much smaller than sex differences in testosterone exposure (a lot of overlap between female and male populations, and very little, respectively). This casts serious doubt on the assumption that more testosterone means more masculinity, and that men must inevitably be more masculine because they have higher absolute levels of testosterone on average. Also, in humans, masculinity includes a suite of behaviours that don’t necessarily come as a package deal. For example, although we think of risk-taking as a quintessential masculine personality trait (hence the expression, ‘grow some balls’), people are idiosyncratic when it comes to which domains of risk appeal: the physical risk-taker isn’t necessarily a financial risktaker, for instance. So what kind of risk-taker do
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we expect a high-testosterone person to be? This ‘mosaicism’ makes it unrealistic to expect consistent relations between testosterone levels and masculine behaviour: an expectation borne out by the empirical research. Patterns of sex differences are also highly variable across context, culture and time-period. Joe, your explanation of this is that it reflects cultural differences in success in channelling or overcoming testosterone’s powerful effects. However, given a conception of testosterone as helping animals to modulate behaviour to the physical, social and, in our own case, cultural environment – gender constructions can even modulate testosterone reactivity – this seems to get things back-to-front. Finally, the ‘Testosterone Rex’ view overlooks indirect effects of testosterone on behaviour. Testosterone masculinises the body, from the basics of genitals to secondary sexual characteristics, and this masculine phenotype can influence a male’s behaviour and his interactions with others. These indirect effects of sex on behaviour are of increasing interest. Social dynamics can be part of a ‘developmental system’ that is reliably inherited along with the genes, and can play a key, constructive role in the development of evolved, adaptive behaviours. In humans, we call this gender socialisation. Joe Herbert: Our basic biology is no different from
other primates (or even mammals). There is no doubt that there are marked sex differences in behaviour in these species, and that these are powerfully (but not exclusively) influenced by testosterone. But there will be individual variations in the exact effects that testosterone has, depending on genetic and environmental factors. These differences are one result of testosterone acting on the limbic parts of the brain. What is different in humans is the ability to modify basic biology in ways that are much more complex, and culturally variable, than in other species. This is a function of the huge human cerebral cortex, which devises a variety of laws, customs and cultures
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towards the incorporation of indirect effects of sex via completely unknown in the animal world. Your mistake is to deny the existence of the basic sex-related sex-linked environments, and sex-by-environment interactions. On ‘the stuff of evolution’, the extended patterns because they are modified historically and modern synthesis recognises multiple forms of culturally: but this is an outstanding function of the inheritance for evolved traits. We agree that there human brain. Think of the way we use food – far are many sources of intra-sex variation in gendered beyond its basic function: or clothes. Do not deny behaviour, but empirical data repeatedly challenge the (or be ashamed of) your biological heritage! In your book (Testosterone Rex) you seem desperate view that the gendered traits I focus on in my book are ‘largely orchestrated by testosterone’. to eliminate or minimise sex differences in the brain It’s legitimate to ask what all this means for our or in behaviour. Most males are stronger than most understanding of the development of sex differences women: but some women (Olympic athletes, for in behaviour. Yet scattered through your reply – example) are stronger than many men: and men’s ‘desperate’, ‘minimise’, ‘deny’, ‘ashamed’, ‘have a strength differs. This doesn’t eliminate the sex problem’, ‘abolish’ – is an implication with a long difference. We can measure strength, so we can assign history in this scientific terrain. Namely, that political a value to each individual. Your problem is that we can’t do this to behaviour – what is a ‘small’ difference? beliefs are interfering with an objective reading of the science. The irony here is that it has not been Most sex differences in the brain refer to the size of feminist values that have misled and biased the various regions: a wholly uninformative guide as to science, but stereotypical assumptions about the whether these are relevant or important for behaviour, sexes. In debates about frameworks, assumptions, though more recent accounts of biochemical or data and interpretation, colourful epigenetic differences, for example speculations about critics’ supposed from Michael Baum, may prove “Masculinity is a inner turmoil are a distraction. to be more interesting (if they apply to humans). So your package of behaviours, statement about the relation JH: Let’s agree that men have orchestrated largely by between testosterone (T) levels and dominated and repressed women testosterone. However, the throughout history. It’s not a behaviour is uninterpretable from both viewpoints: levels of T don’t content of the package will new problem: Anne Finch (Lady tell you very much either (you wrote a poem about it vary considerably between Winchelsea) need to include genetic variation in 1661. But sex differences are not individuals. Why do you in the androgen receptor, time of always caused by repression and exposure, etc., etc.), and most men have a problem with that?” inequality. When survival depended have more T than they need. on hunting or agriculture, this Masculinity is a package of was the males’ social role, whereas behaviours, orchestrated largely raising children and homeby testosterone. However, the content of the package making was necessarily dependent largely on women. will vary considerably between individuals. Why Defending the group against enemies was also a male do you have a problem with that? Variation is the function, in this case, mostly younger males (it’s basic stuff of biology: and ‘small’ differences are important to distinguish age as an important factor the stuff of evolution. Don’t discount them. Social in the social roles of males). Time and technology and environmental events can vastly moderate can change that. In my youth, female bus drivers were the masculine profile: that’s a prominent and almost unknown. Why? Two reasons: a social one – distinguishing feature of the human brain. It’s what the job was not thought to be suitable for women – makes a human being and our history. Sex differences and technology: buses were very hard to drive. Altered are a major and welcome contribution to individuality. social views on gender roles have blurred artificial They are not the only one, nor should they be used boundaries about job discrimination, and the invention as a basis for discrimination, any more than other of power steering has made buses easier to drive: so biological variations (e.g. skin colour). It’s odd to see now we see female drivers all over the place. a self-declared feminist trying to abolish femininity! So there are two ways to deal with gender-related repression, and they are not mutually exclusive. Either deny that there are any sex differences in ability, CF: The conclusion that I am trying ‘to abolish motivation or behaviour, or make sure that such femininity’ is a very strange one to draw from a differences, which exist but vary between individuals book that examines what advances in scientific as well as between sexes, are not the basis for unequal understanding mean for the familiar ‘Testosterone access to assets, opportunities or decision-making. Rex’ view of human sex differences in behaviour, You prefer the former: whilst I agree that many sex particularly risk-taking and competition. On differences have been politically or socially contrived our shared ‘basic biology’ with other mammals, (though on a biological basis), denying they exist is evolutionary biology is observing the fitness neither accurate nor an optimal way of dealing with consequences of dominance and competition for gender-based inequality. female mammals, while scientific models are moving
the psychologist october 2017 debate
reviews of sex differences in The biology and history of values and financial risk-taking. testosterone shows it has only one Cordelia Fine That the size and pattern of these function: to facilitate reproduction. is an author differences is consistent with the It’s been so successful that and Professor combined and continuous action mammals, reptiles, fish and birds of History and of many small causal influences is all use it. The reason for its success Philosophy of certainly counter to the idea of sex is that it has powerful influences Science at the differences being powerfully caused on a range of body functions: University of by testosterone, but it is not a sperm, penis, muscles, aggression, Melbourne denial of the differences themselves. competitiveness, sexual motivation, And now to more interesting etc. All these are necessary for firstname.lastname@example.org and relevant issues. I agree that successful reproduction by males. physical differences between If this is what you mean by a Joe Herbert the sexes can give rise to stereotype, then that’s what it is. is Emeritus sex-segregation of roles that But it’s important to be clear that Professor of technological and other advances testosterone is not masculinity (I Neuroscience can then make less relevant. In say this several times in my book), at the fact, in my book I refer to the though it’s an essential component. University of work of Alice Eagly and Wendy Age, upbringing, experience and Cambridge Wood, who point to men’s greater the social milieu of the time all average upper body strength, and have important roles, and they all email@example.com pregnancy and breastfeeding by interact. Human history shows women, as an important organising that we can alter elements of social principle for understanding crossfunctions that may have derived cultural regularities in the division of labour. I from sex differences that were useful, or accepted, in would be interested to know your views though on other times using political and legal mechanisms as strongly sex-segregated occupations like engineering, well as technology. This doesn’t need us to deny those financial trading, surgery, childcare and nursing. sex-differences exist: just that they are not a reason for Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by saying inequality. You continue to confuse the that sex differences ‘are not a reason for inequality’. two concepts. If you deny (implausibly) that there Do you mean that sex differences are: ‘not a reason to are genuine sex differences in any behaviour, then you discriminate’; or ‘not a reason for men and women to have abolished the concept of both masculinity and continue to be unequally represented in traditionally femininity: the words have no longer any meaning masculine and feminine occupations’? except to describe the genitalia. I also agree that many interacting factors contribute to variation in gendered traits. Where we differ is in CF: There are several points on which I think we agree. my attention to the constructive role of the reliably But let me first sweep out of the way two distracting inherited ‘developmental system’ in the development red herrings. of evolved, adaptive behaviours: meaning that when First, you are simply mistaken when you insist a critical feature of the environment changes, the that I confuse legal and moral understandings of evolved behaviour develops differently, or not at all. equality with similarity. To the contrary, I find it very Earlier in our exchange, you referred to powerfully concerning when ethical values of equality, respect testosterone-driven ‘basic sex-related patterns’ that are and tolerance seem to be held hostage to particular then modified by culture. Could you explain what that scientific views (for example, of ‘naturalness’ or being basic sex-related pattern is, and in what conditions it ‘born that way’). As with my previous book, Delusions would be expressed in an unmodified state? of Gender, my concern is with the quality of the scientific methods, assumptions and interpretations used to support conclusions that the sexes are JH: You ask: Under what conditions would sex-related inherently suited, or drawn, to different kinds of roles behaviour be expressed in an unmodified state? There in our society. Scientific conclusions in this area can is no such state. Thomas Hobbes was a very great of course have political implications, but you confuse philosopher, but had he known a little more about scientific arguments with political ones. animal society, he would never have postulated a Second, it is neither correct nor helpful to claim ‘state of nature’ in which there was no governance that I ‘deny that there are any sex differences in of testosterone-related behaviour. Testosterone is the ability, motivation or behaviour’. My book repeatedly fundamental driver of sexuality in male fish, birds, references studies of sex differences, including metareptiles and all mammals. It’s a great evolutionary analyses of sex differences in risk-taking, sexuality, success, because it underlies so much of what is aggression, interests, cognition, communication, and needed for male reproduction. But – as I point out social and personality variables, as well as the National in my book – no animal species allows unbridled Survey of Sexual Attitudes & Lifestyles and substantive testosterone-related behaviour. So your question has
psy 1017 p44_49 debate.indd 47
no answer except: ‘It doesn’t happen!’ What does happen in humans is a great variety of mechanisms and forms of regulation: these have varied across time and place in a manner unknown in other species. (E.O. Wilson makes the point that variability is the outstanding feature of human behaviour.) There is no ‘Testosterone Rex stereotype’. You seem to think that the presence of a Y chromosome, and the surge of testosterone that the male brain experiences in early life, does nothing. It does a lot; but this is variable between different males, and modifiable to an enormous extent by subsequent experiential Key sources or social factors. You do confuse similarity with equality: your Adkins-Regan, E. (2005). Hormones book has a monotonic theme: and animal social behavior. Princeton sex-differences in behaviour University Press. either don’t exist, are too small Auyeung, B., Lombardo, M.V. & Baronto be significant, or are the result Cohen, S. (2013). Prenatal and postnatal hormone effects on the human brain of social determinism. There and cognition. Pflugers Archiv. 465, is no need to try to eliminate 557–571. sex-differences in behaviour, Bao, A.M. & Swaab, D.F. (2011). however caused, to promote Sexual differentiation of the gender equality, just as, in a decent human brain: Relation to gender society, a plumber (or his/her identity, sexual orientation and neuropsychiatric disorders. Frontiers in children) has equal opportunity Neuroendocrinology, 32, 214–226. and status with an astrophysicist. Fine, C. (2017). Testosterone rex: This is implicit in your question Unmaking the myths of our gendered about sex-segregated occupations. minds. Icon Books. I have no idea how much social Fine, C., Dupré, J. & Joel, D. (2017). Sexpressures ensure that most linked behavior: Evolution, stability, and variability. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, engineers are male, and most 21, 666–673. nurses are female (though the Herbert, J. (2017). Testosterone: The increasing number of the minor molecule behind power, sex and the will to sex in each suggests there must be win. OUP (revised paperback edition). some). Do I think we would reach Hines, M. et al. (2016). Prenatal Eldorado when there are 50 per androgen exposure alters girls’ responses to information indicating cent males/females in each? Not gender-appropriate behaviour. at all. I would be perfectly happy Philosophical Transactions of the Royal with a highly skewed distribution Society B, 371. if I could be sure that any female Hines, M. (2005). Brain gender. OUP. who wanted to be an engineer Lenz, K.M. & McCarthy, M.M. (2010). was encouraged to be one, and Organized for sex: Steroid hormones and the developing hypothalamus. ditto for males and nurses. You European Journal of Neuroscience 32, will know about Simon Baron2096–2104 Cohen’s work on ‘systemising’ Niederle, M. & Vesterlund, L. (2007). and ‘empathising’ traits in males Do women shy away from competition? and females, which may reflect Do men compete too much? Quarterly differences in preferences and Journal of Economics, 122, 1067–1101. Stockley, P. & Bro-Jørgensen, J. (2011). choices of career, etc. If these traits Female competition and its evolutionary are, at least partly, the result of the consequences in mammals. Biological presence or lack of testosterone Reviews 86, 341–366. (which is very likely, given all the van Anders, S. (2013). Beyond evidence), then this isn’t a reason masculinity: Testosterone, gender/ for inequality, but it is (one) reason sex, and human social behavior in a comparative context. Frontiers in for dissimilarity. Neuroendocrinology, 34, 198–210.
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Take a hard look at any other mammalian species. You will see marked sex differences in behaviour (testosterone dependent), and marked variation between species in how those differences are expressed (though there are some consistent features). Either humans have, in some mysterious way, jettisoned their mammalian heritage or, much more plausibly, they have developed ways, still evolving, of modifying or even eliminating these sex differences according to the social norms and requirements of the time. This isn’t ‘Testosterone Rex’: it’s ‘Testosterone Cogitans’. CF: There are many methodological and empirical problems with Baron-Cohen’s account (see Delusions of Gender and Jordan-Young’s Brain Storm). The supposedly strongest evidence comes from girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (exposed to very high levels of prenatal androgens), who have fewer female-typical toy preferences. But these girls are also impervious to the usual strong influence of gender modelling and labels on toy preferences. So does testosterone create a male brain evolved to be especially interested in toy cars (but not also ‘systemising’-y Lego planes or jigsaw puzzles)? Or, in line with the notion of indirect effects of sex, could something else be going on? Whether it’s claims about the role of testosterone in sex differences in interests, risk-taking or competition, scientific discourse should allow questions to be asked about methods, data and interpretations without accusations of confusing equality with similarity, trying to abolish femininity, or any other such absurdities. You recommend a ‘hard look’ at other mammals. In non-human primates, testosterone’s influence on behaviour is one of many interacting factors, replaceable, overrideable, experientially modulated. In rats, greater testosterone in the males’ urine evokes more intensive maternal licking, which contributes to effective mounting and intromission via sexual differentiation of the brain. An indirect, dynamic effect of sex (via maternal behaviour) is already at work in this essential evolved behaviour. You can be sure that natural selection won’t have overlooked our rich, inherited gendered cultures in the development of our overlapping, contingent, mosaic masculinities and femininities. Rebadging Testosterone Rex as ‘Testosterone Cogitans’ persists in an outdated view of evolution and development, and gives testosterone a star billing it doesn’t deserve.
the psychologist october 2017 debate
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Erica Burman ‘I encountered considerable hostility to the kinds of critiques I was presenting’ Our editor Jon Sutton meets Professor Erica Burman (University of Manchester)
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I bought your Deconstructing Developmental Psychology as an undergraduate in 1994. What I took from it back then was to question everything, to look behind the veil. Are those defining features of your approach? Questioning everything? Yes. Looking behind the veil? No. That would imply, firstly, a claim to revelation that is unsustainable and, secondly, that I (or anyone else) has privileged, a priori access to what can be revealed. A deconstructionist approach challenges both claims. Rather we might say that the presence of the veil constructs what it covers as being out of sight, and so secretly invests what lies behind with special qualities. My project is much more one of drawing attention to the work done by the veil – in this case interrogating the fabric of psychological practices, models, methods, techniques and discourses. These generate the special knowledge, secrets or expertise, that then
can be treated as something fixed and functioning independently of those practices. Instead, I want to show how this knowledge is produced in socio-political conditions and how these actually shape what is ‘found’. That book is now in its third edition. There have been so many shifts in the socio-political conditions surrounding children in that time… what would you pick out as particularly significant? Yes, over the past 23 years we’ve witnessed the digital age, securitisation, the impact of ‘austerity’ policies and widening of social inequalities and divisions across the world. Perhaps, in these days of insecurity and precarity, it’s not insignificant that the chapter I have been requested to extend in each edition is the
the psychologist october 2017 interview
one on attachment. Attachment has now acquired a neurological twist, and the ‘neuro’ turn of course calls for critical reflection. Alongside this, the social investment in the child – whether as future labourer or consumer – intensifies, and we have a return of older moral discourses around notions of ‘character’ now accompanied by an apparently ‘scientific’ one of ‘resilience’ – a concept that has been moved from being a feature of systems or contexts to a quality of the individual, much as ‘worklessness’ has replaced ‘unemployment’. Migration and child exploitation issues figure even more prominently in the third edition, reflecting the current geopolitical situation; while, on a more positive note, I have tried to reflect the rise of new disciplines that offer great resources for us in developmental psychology – including disability studies, queer theory and of course childhood studies. You write that we invest ‘all kinds of hopes, fears and longings’ in children. Has it always/will it always be thus? What a great question! I expect probably yes, at least to some extent. The early debates about the ‘invention’ of childhood kickstarted an attention to the different childhoods lived and also the shifts in meaning accorded children and childhood, in particular sharpening up attention to specific representational practices and what can, and can’t, be inferred from them – paintings of children was the key example. With the rise of science and developments in biology, as well as the beginnings of psychology in 18th-century Europe, what we think of as the modern period’s generation of the idea of the individual, the capacity to have interiority, or an inner ‘self’, became aligned with the idea of childhood. Hence the popular – and still circulating – notion of the inner child, as something special within oneself that needs preserving and cultivating. But now we see an intensification and proliferation of models of childhood, including fears of, as well as for, particular kinds of children or young people. Think of the anxieties around gang violence, for example. Historical work indicates that some of the debates that we think of as unique to our time – for example, the concerns about age-compression or ‘children growing up too soon’ – were just as hotly debated in the late 19th century. So, until we have babies through other reproductive and technological means, or radically change the role of children as ‘becomings’ – whether as future workers, or leaders, or curators of the planet, et cetera – I think we are stuck with very significant affective investments in children. Nevertheless, these take different forms and acquire different salience according to time and place. And these often hamper rather than help actual engagements with and interventions for children and young people, precisely because they owe their origins to all kinds of nostalgic ideas of what kind of childhood children ‘should’ have – ideas which probably never existed.
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To take a story from today’s newspapers linked to fears for or about children – a pilot scheme in which teachers wear body cams. Deconstruct that for me. There is a fruitful ambiguity – who is being protected, the child or the teacher? It could be either, or both. And how could anyone possibly argue against protecting children from being abused at school, or teachers from abuse from their pupils? Alongside deconstruction, I would draw on Foucault here, in particular to consider how such a measure reflects and extends the social climate of distrust and, arising from the demand for everything to be ‘visible’, this not only renders suspect what is not immediately available for inspection – we seem to be back to the veil again! – but also engenders a sense of insecurity in one’s own individual judgement. You’re pretty sceptical about psychology’s potential to do good, for example through a ‘catch them young’ approach to intervention. Yet you feel developmental psychology exercises a powerful impact on everyday lives and ways of thinking about ourselves. Yes. Psychology is not neutral, and, for example, early intervention policies often target the most marginal groups in ways that pathologise them from the outset. Yet psychology’s participation in and contribution to oppressive practices are often inadvertent. The hope is that if we are more alert to these unintended effects or applications we might be able to frame our claims in ways that ward off some of these problems. I’m not only talking about policy applications here, but the ways psychological ideas – especially about families, relationships and child development – have seeped into everyday life. As other commentators have pointed out, it’s the mutually confirming cycle between common sense and expertise that needs critical attention. Increasingly, we are avid consumers of psychology. That includes us as psychologists; we are not immune, but perhaps we can have a role in demystifying some of the spurious claims. Isn’t the idealised childhood of innocence a decent goal for any society? The problem is that the ideal works in an exclusionary way. It positions all those children whose lives in no way approach this as deviant or deficient – which is basically nearly all the children of the world who are not living white, middle-class Euro-US childhoods. It also not only disenfranchises those who are not so innocent – who work rather than play, for example – but this place of innocence accorded children is often used to exclude them from socio-political participation. What the concept of innocence leaves uninterrogated is how this reflects particular socio-political conditions and a specific cultural-historical heritage (of Western Europe). This is what generalised subscription to this notion – as in some international development policies – obscures. Recently, you’ve researched the impact of the
so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’. Explain what your approach can bring here. Deconstruction or other critical theory may seem a long way from social research, but these resources certainly inform how I understand the issues at play. Firstly, they help me refuse the prevailing opposition, or binary, between education and social policy – since educational issues figure within social policy, and vice versa. Secondly, also to refuse making a clear binary between questions of children’s school attainment and their wellbeing. Third, one cannot separate children from their familial context and environment, so that child wellbeing is also significantly related to family wellbeing, including financial circumstances. Finally, in particular, given the current gendered structuring of caregiving relationships, separating children’s issues from women’s is untenable. Women still do most of the work of parenting and housework plus their status as women is often tied to how well they are seen to ‘mother’. To take this further, our ‘Bedroom Tax’ project was formulated from a position of political commitment and solidarity. Once science – including psychology – is acknowledged to be situated, there is no choice but to take a position. Rather than, for example, claiming that it’s possible to directly translate a deconstructionist analysis into a research design, I would say that it entered into the way I worked with the research team – alongside perspectives arising from my training as a group analyst and a discursive and qualitative researcher. I think it meant that I brought a certain interpretive irreverence, as well as engagement, that supported an openness and sensitivity to the dominant and minor themes we identified in the research material. In general, my work on empirical projects – and I have co-directed some quite big projects on domestic violence service provision and migration and asylum issues – has taken the form of supporting others, particularly service providers, by documenting good practice and so offering the legitimacy of the discourse of ‘research’. A second point is that once a project design is formulated in a sufficiently open way, one can approach the analysis of the research material with the expectation that it will unsettle or contradict received ways of thinking. But let me be clear about this, the learning and knowledge-generation goes in two directions – theory is generated from, as well as informs, practice. Deconstruction is not deduction; it is about practices of reading that are alert to instabilities and the pressures – that is, the power relations at play – that stabilise those readings.
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Who has inspired that approach? It’s hard to name specific names, there are so many! But, certainly, bodies of theory have been very important at particular times. Feminist theory has provided, and continues to provide, major inspiration for me – now with an environmentalist, new materialist take that now includes post-human debates, which
are so very relevant to discussions about children and childhood. Ditto, the post-development and critical development studies discussions from international development policy. As well as this, I have found inspiration from figures such as Walter Benjamin, on notions of time, history and a critique of progress, and Georg Perec, for his reflections on memory and childhood, and methodologically on ‘infra-sociology’ of everyday, apparently minor, details. Currently I am drawing on postcolonial theory, especially the work of the revolutionary theorist Frantz Fanon, as a resource to rethink claims made for and about children/ childhood, and to situate these within their wider socio-political frames. No decent interviewer worth their salt would draw on a Wikipedia entry, which is why I’m going to do just that… yours says that you are ‘little known in the developmental psychology research community’. Do you think that’s fair, and if so why is that? I don’t know if it’s fair, or even how true this now is, since I am very pleased to have been made a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, which surely is a wonderful recognition of my contribution. But it is true that early on I encountered considerable hostility to the kinds of critiques I was presenting, and I hope saying this may be of some comfort to struggling young researchers. Some positivist psychologists seemed to take criticism of psychological paradigms very personally, judging by the purple prose I received from early journal submissions. But professionals in other disciplines, such as social work, education and nursing, whose work involved drawing upon psychological knowledge, were quick to recognise how they could use these critical arguments. The discipline of psychology has certainly changed quite a lot in the last 30 years, and I welcome the greater receptivity to these critical debates. As for a renewal, well I would like to support new generations of psychology undergraduates to understand that such debates do belong in psychology. You seem, shall we say, pretty ‘invested’ in all this. Do you ‘live and breathe’ your approach? No, it’s rather the reverse! It is the living and breathing that make demands. So it’s the other way round – material, embodied encounters and activities bring focus. Psychology and psychologists do not function in isolation. I’m involved in lots of activities, and they show me what’s missing or where to go in my academic work and teaching. And I have learnt so much from the students and colleagues I have worked with. So I’d challenge the image of the lone psychologist thinking and reflecting on social practice, rather than being involved with it. And I’m grateful to have been part of a range of national and international networks and communities of critical, social and feminist psychologists – and, crucially, also non-psychologists – who have understood the need for critique and helped formulate it.
the psychologist october 2017 interview
what to seek out on
psychologist website this month
The Psychologist Guide to… We collect together our four guides so far
Exclusive content A manifesto for psychological health and wellbeing The first transcript from our 2017 Latitude Festival sessions
From the archive One year ago: ‘Honey, I shrunk the kids’ – we speak to psychologists and their children about the subject’s impact on their parenting
An extract from Adrian Owen’s new book Into the Grey Zone Uta Frith discusses psychopathy with Essi Viding
Find all this and so much more via
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One year at university Holly Rose Welsby gained a Triple A* from Burnley College Sixth Form Centre to progress to Cambridge University. She has just completed her first year studying psychology at Churchill College. Here she tells us about her experience so far.
Coming from a deprived community is just one of several factors that have influenced my passion for psychology. I’ve always been aware of how difficult life can be for some people; of how certain social or economic environments can damage a person’s mental wellbeing. It has always therefore been important for me to think about different factors that affect mental health negatively, and about positive ways to counteract this. This isn’t specific to where I grew up, of course – each community faces stresses and strains. Cambridge University, for example, has shown me different challenges people may face in trying to maintain good mental health. I’ve met such a vast amount of people from different backgrounds, whose trajectories are sometimes worlds apart and sometimes very similar. My experiences make me think about some of the major psychological debates (natures vs. nurture, individual vs. social, free will vs. determinism) all
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of the time, as I’m constantly seeing the effects of them in real-life contexts. Before I arrived, I had no idea what to expect other than hard work. I knew it would be challenging, but the workload was still a surprise. However, as long as you’re prepared to work really hard, then you can achieve whatever goal you set yourself. My first few lessons were really indicative of how the rest of the year would go. First, the lectures are extremely fast-paced – we covered topics that took weeks in college within a couple of hours, because we are expected to read about the subject in more depth individually. In my lectures, students are always interested and engaged, it surprised me at first how much participation from the students there was – I think this is something really important for students to practise from an earlier age, actively getting involved with lessons by being curious and asking questions. This will help to ensure that you gain a fuller
the psychologist october 2017 careers
understanding of whichever topic is at hand, and will also help to guide your personal research. Because I’ve just completed my first year, I haven’t specialised yet, so I’m still figuring out where my interests lie. So far I’ve been particularly interested in neuropsychology, the psychology of emotions, and the psychology of close relationships... I’m also really looking forward to studying psychopathology in my third year. No doubt I’ll find new favourite topics along the way. Through lectures focused on research methodology and data collection, I have formed the opinion that findings don’t need to be quantitative or considered ‘hard science’ in order to be useful to psychologists. Whilst psychology has gained credence as a discipline through being able to adopt scientific methods, in my opinion it is important to remember that our subject matter is human nature – something that need not (and sometimes can not) always be reduced to objective, numerical results. Having said this, the lectures also taught me several factors that influence the validity and reliability of research, and so I have learnt to read psychological research critically when exploring a topic or theory. We don’t just learn straight psychology modules; as with many courses at Cambridge, students choose some supplementary modules to learn alongside their core subject. I therefore took two psychology modules, but also social anthropology and sociology. I think this approach has been useful because often I have ended up learning about the same topic (such as gender) from at least three different stances: the psychological, the sociological and the anthropological (though of course each discipline has its own further theoretical subdivisions). This has provided a more holistic view of the topics I’ve learnt, whilst also instilling the knowledge that there are several ways to look at any one construct. When forming a theory or personal opinion, one should incorporate and weigh up evidence collected from various perspectives. I would sum up my experience so far as challenging, unique, eye-opening. I enjoy being surrounded by people who are passionate about their studies and who want to work; I enjoy the facilities
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The Psychologist Guide to… University life With this issue of The Psychologist, Society members will receive the fourth of our series of Guides. These leaflets offer practical, evidence-based tips drawn from across the discipline. The idea is that our members will help us get them to the intended audience: in this case, new and prospective students. There will be an online version, via https:// thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/ psychologist-guide (where you can also find the other Guides so far, on ‘You and your baby’, ‘Leadership’ and ‘Healthy living’). We do have extra hard copies, and although we can’t send out individual copies, we would like to hear from you if you can help us get significant numbers to the right people. We are grateful to Routledge for sponsoring this Guide. If you would be interested in contributing to or sponsoring a future Guide – including the next planned one, on ‘Pets’ – please get in touch with the editor on firstname.lastname@example.org
such as the numerous libraries and work spaces; I enjoy being taught by individuals who are leaders in their fields, and I enjoy the beautiful buildings that I get to work in or walk past every day. Outside of studies I just do social things with friends – nights out, walking through the beautiful central colleges, or punting down the river Cam. May week, after exams have finished, was probably my favourite time of the whole year. There are activities every day and parties or May balls every night. There are things going on all year though: most colleges there have formal meals every week or two, and some colleges have events on every week in their bars, which can be fun to go to, to meet people from other colleges. I still adore psychology, and I’ll always want to understand the workings of human thought and behaviour. I don’t know exactly what I’ll go on to do in the future, but I know it will involve psychology.
‘When schools pay for services they demand more – that means we must be more creative in what we do’ Ian Florance meets Dr Will Shield You can argue that educational psychology fills more column inches and provides more soundbites in media debates about psychology’s role in society than any other application of the discipline. How psychological input affects or is denied to children perhaps causes more emotion than most other areas of our discipline’s application. Yet it’s sometimes been difficult to get practising educational psychologists (EPs) to talk about what their role really involves. So when Dr Will Shield contacted us, writing that he was ‘keen to talk about the role of EPs in applying psychology to support schools in financially challenging times’, we were equally keen to meet him.
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‘There is an unprecedented number of applicants wanting to train as EPs, which is great, despite shrinking funds for local authority EP services,’ Will begins. ‘The government states it is committed to increasing EP numbers, although we’re up against an apparent shortage of training placements in local authorities and there’s a fear held by some trainees that they will not be able to find a job straight from training.’ Will comments that the move away from local authority-funded services to traded services, where schools, educational settings and sometimes parents pay for EP support, is changing how the profession works and what skills practitioners need. ‘Most local authorities maintain an educational psychology service to complete statutory work, although some now commission outside organisations to carry out all statutory work as well as offering other services. Schools can buy in these other services, but the pot of money is shrinking and schools have other priorities. Many schools still don’t understand the breadth of what educational psychology can offer to children, young people, families and organisations. If truth be told, EPs haven’t always been very good at telling them! But the result is EPs working with increasing creativity – offering training, therapeutic work and research with schools. They are adapting to a more business-like model rather than the traditional one of local-authority psychologists. EPs find they need to be more self-sufficient, more confident and more skilled at promoting their skills.’ Will had identified an issue that is obviously affecting EPs profoundly. What can they do about it? ‘We need to communicate better and undertake more lobbying, national communication, publishing and conference sessions. As I’ve suggested, schools and families sometimes don’t understand that our role and skills extend far beyond statutory work. I’ve enjoyed systemic work and helping schools react to organisational change, for instance. In addition, there’s a national focus on promoting mental health; EPs are
the psychologist october 2017 careers
incredibly well placed to help schools and families develop their knowledge and skills in this area.’ Summing up, Will argues that educational psychologists need to be giving elements of psychology away to help people understand what the unique contribution is. ‘When schools pay for services they demand more – that means we must be more creative in what we do. This will affect training – every course needs a strong element on ethical trading, alongside business-related and communication skills. At Exeter University our aim is to help students feel confident in publishing their research, for instance. We also stress flexibility and mobility as core requirements for a career in educational psychology – our training placements can be anywhere, giving students a flavour of real EP life.’ There’s also a fundamental issue – where is an EP’s home? ‘We are moving away from local authorities and working increasingly within multi-academy trusts, federations of schools and with the post-16 sector. Given ongoing austerity measures and cuts to vital frontline services, there is a danger we might become all things to all people – family support workers, literacy specialists, behaviour and learning mentors. Turn it around and this “homelessness” is an opportunity to reassert our professional integrity – to say what we don’t feel comfortable doing as well as celebrating the huge range of what we can do.’ Will feels that talking to other health and social care professionals has already enriched the profession of educational psychology. ‘But we need to extend those conversations beyond casework – which is what they often focus on – to sharing of experiences
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and cross-disciplinary supervision. Events like “Psychology in the Pub” help us to talk to other kinds of psychologists – occupational psychologists, for instance, know a lot more about structuring portfolio careers, selling services, running businesses. We might be able to swap some of our knowledge in areas such as complex educational systems for their advice. In my view, this is a fantastic opportunity for educational psychologists to raise their profile in areas relating to children, young people and families. Our job is to apply psychology to better understand how schools can support children’s learning, emotional wellbeing, mental health and behaviour.’ Will’s strong views stem partly from his own experiences and the fact that his career mixes many elements and places of work. He did a psychology A-level and enjoyed it. Although he’d intended to study law, he ended up doing a degree in psychology at UWE Bristol. ‘I quickly realised how sheltered my upbringing had been, living in a small Staffordshire village. In my first year at university, I worked in an inner-city school in Bristol, and one of the cases at a staff meeting concerned a family who were living in unimaginable poverty. It motivated me to want to work with families who had developed such strong resilience in the face of adversity. It also suggests to me that getting used to diversity and understanding issues in different cultures must be a key element in the training of any EP. You should be helped to understand your own upbringing and therefore the preconceptions you carry with you. Maybe I was naive at the time, but things haven’t changed too much – I live in Bristol, an incredibly diverse and exciting city, but one where there are clear divides between affluent areas and pockets of extreme poverty.’ Will worked in inner-city Bristol schools after graduating and thought about applying for a PGCE, but his experience made him realise that he ‘wanted to work with children individually and holistically, rather than in a classroom teaching role’. He says he was – and still is – ‘passionate about applying psychology to understand how children make sense of their world’. He’d been advised to consider educational psychology by a university careers adviser and by his godparents (also careers advisers), but there were no opportunities for undergraduates to shadow a working EP or see what the role entailed. Once working fulltime as a teaching assistant in a secondary school, Will made contact with the school’s EP and arranged an afternoon of shadowing. ‘After this’, he explains, ‘I applied for the Doctorate in Educational, Child and Community Psychology at Exeter University.’ Will is prompted by his memory of the course to think about one of the two issues he’d raised when he wrote to us – experiences prior to applying for courses. ‘Several of us on my training course had worked in support roles within both mainstream and special schools. We had had similar experiences. Since EP training changed to a three-year professional doctorate in line
with the clinical psychology training route, we see a more diverse range of people coming into training. It was and is a huge jump for teachers to retrain – not least financially – but now many applicants do not have a teaching background at all. This is allowing for a broader range of knowledge and skills within the profession, with some people coming from health, social care or even commercial backgrounds.’ During the course, Will discovered a love for consultation as well as individual casework with children who have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect. ‘I still feel immensely privileged to work with children and their families,’ he says, ‘hearing their most personal stories and supporting schools in understanding how to best offer support. It’s always rewarding but can be incredibly tough.’ After qualifying, Will worked for Babcock LDP Educational Psychology Service in Devon, and for the past three and a half years Will has been an EP for North Somerset Council. Since qualifying he has also been involved in some assessment work for local universities. ‘I recently worked with a 25-year-old from a challenging background who had struggled at school. Despite being excluded from school and then becoming disengaged from education, he made the conscious decision to be the first in his family to go to university. He completed a higher education access course at college and was then accepted for an
undergraduate degree, now with plans to complete a master’s degree. These sorts of stories inspire me and other EPs; they show that access to a good-quality education – at any age – can make a notable difference to anyone’s life, even if that education follows a different trajectory.’ In addition to this work, Will undertakes several other activities. When I interviewed him, he had started a secondment at Exeter University as a tutor on the DEdPsy programme. ‘This involves teaching, visiting trainee EPs on placement, providing supervision and co-supervising research projects. Trainee EPs are in a particularly powerful place to help bridge the gap between academic research and “realworld” implications. Fundamentally, we are applied psychologists utilising evidence-based practice.’ He is also ‘a committed Association of Educational Psychologists rep’ (a trade union and professional body) and a member of the BPS/DECP: ‘Both organisations are doing a great job at promoting the voice of the profession.’ What else has Will learnt in his career? ‘The importance of time spent having lunch with your team! Supervision is essential – to cope with the undoubted emotional strain of work; to keep you focused; to ensure you renew your skills; and, among the sorts of changes we’ve discussed, it helps me think about the future of a very important profession.’
DART-P Inaugural Conference 6–7 June 2018
Hosted by Birmingham City University Submissions Open!
Topics : n The educational journey n Diversity in education n Teaching through research n General www.bps.org.uk/dartp2018
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the psychologist october 2017 careers
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Careers in Psychology Whether you are a recent graduate, or a Psychologist looking for a change in career, you can view current vacancies for a range of Psychology roles here, or view the latest roles on the new appointments site www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk The job site is still the number one online resource for psychology jobs. Fully accessible on mobile and desktop computers, the site features increased search functionality, superb ease of use and navigation. For recruiters, there are many more targeting options for you to promote your vacancies to potential candidates. All adverts placed in The Psychologist will have their adverts included on the job site.
Clinical Psychologist Near Shrewsbury, Shropshire Salary commensurate with experience Full Time with some flexibility able to be considered New Reflexions is a well-established specialist independent provider of high quality services for young people in therapeutic residential care. The Clinical Services Department represents a pivotal and valued element within an integrated model of service delivery across care, education and psychological interventions. We are looking for a dynamic and enthusiastic individual capable of playing a key role in the development and delivery of our integrated service. Therefore, significant experience of working within the LAC/CAMHS system is essential. The role includes responsibility to provide highly specialised clinical assessment, formulation, evidence-based interventions and evaluation. As well as direct clinical work, the post holder will provide specialist advice, consultancy and training on a young person’s care to non-psychologist colleagues. Clinical audit and clinical governance are also a component of the post. Forensic psychology experience would also be an advantage. To apply for this role you will be required to hold: • • • •
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As a high quality provider, we are interested to hear from individuals with the flexibility and adaptability to work within our service. All applicants must be fully qualified, HCPC registered, and subject to satisfactory references and an enhanced CRB Check. In order to apply for this position, please email a copy of your CV and covering letter to Michael Timmins, HR Manager: Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.
To discuss the opportunities for advertising and promotion in The Psychologist, www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk and Research Digest, please contact Kai Theriault on 01223 378051 or email email@example.com. Upcoming Display issues advert deadline
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JOB SUMMARY To provide a Psychology service to Residents of the Trinity Care Group, at the same time as offering advice and consultation within professional guidelines and the overall framework of the team’s policies and procedures. To utilise research skills for audit, policy, service development and research within the area St Doolaghs Park Care & Rehabilitation Centre.
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Responsibilities: 1. To provide highly specialist psychological assessments and intervention of Residents with Acquired Brain Injury, interpretation and integration of highly complex data from a variety of sources, including psychological tests, self-report measures, rating scales, direct and indirect structured observations and semi-structured interviews with Residents, family members and others involved in the client’s care. 2. To administer a range of psychological and psychometric tests assessing a range of cognitive functions (e.g. intelligence and problem-solving, memory, language, visuospatial and executive abilities). 3. To formulate and implement plans for psychological treatment and/or management of a client’s psychological problems, based upon an appropriate conceptual framework of the client’s problems, and employing methods based upon evidence of efficacy. 4. To be responsible for implementing a range of psychological interventions for individuals, carers, families and groups, within and across teams employed individually and in synthesis, adjusting and refining psychological formulations drawing upon different explanatory models and maintaining a number of provisional hypotheses. To apply, please email email@example.com For further information, please visit http://www.trinitycare.ie
Senior Assessment & Development Consultants Amberjack Global London Competitive Salary Closing date - 29th September 2017 MST Therapy Workers Family Action London £36,828 - £40,691 Closing date - 4th October 2017
To view these jobs and more, please visit the BPS job site www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk
Psychological Therapies Service - Community Mental Health Team, Health Centre, New Scapa Road, Kirkwall, KW15 1BH
Band 8a £40,833 - £49,000 plus Distant Islands Allowance, Full Time: 37.5 hours per week Fixed Term until the end of March 2020 due to funding (with possible permanent extension)
Advance your career in Applied Psychology in the Orkney Islands. An exciting opportunity has arisen for a band 8a Clinical/Counselling post to introduce a psychology service to Older People and Adults with Learning Disabilities in Orkney aimed at tier 3 & 4 populations. The successful candidate will also contribute to the provision of the already established general adult psychology services in a secondary care setting. We wish to appoint to this fixed term post which offers the opportunity to advance your career in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Rise to the challenge and enjoy the opportunity! Orkney is a wonderful place to live and work and voted one of the happiest places to live in the UK. Orkney offers low pollution, low crime, excellent schools, good leisure facilities, unique wildlife and amazing scenery. To find out more about living and working in Orkney go to: www.orkney.com or watch: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ekYtsSubUJ4.
There is a rich archaeological history to be explored, as well as many outdoor pursuits, including diving in Scapa Flow, kayaking, walking, cycling, bird watching, and many more. Orcadian culture is rich, with music and arts and crafts well represented. The St Magnus Music Festival in June is internationally renowned. The successful candidate will be registered with the Health Care Professions Council and hold a postgraduate qualification in Clinical/Counselling Psychology at Doctorate level or equivalent. This appointment will ideally be on a full-time basis (37.5 hours per week), although applicants seeking part time hours are welcome to apply. There will be an opportunity to offer clinical placements for trainees undertaking doctoral training on the University of Edinburgh/NHS Scotland Clinical Psychology Training Programme and the Dundee/Stirling M.Sc. course in psychological therapies in primary care.
Lying off the northern coast of Scotland, between John O’Groats and the Shetland Isles, Orkney is an archipelago of over 70 beautiful islands, 17 of which are inhabited. The total population is approximately 22,000 with most people living on the Mainland. Kirkwall, with its spectacular red sandstone 12th century cathedral, is the capital. With a population of 7,500, it is the administrative centre of Orkney with a good mix of shops, supermarkets and businesses. The historical harbour town of Stromness, with a population of 2,500 is situated on the West Mainland.
An excellent relocation package is available subject to eligibility.
The Orkney Islands has an airport just a few minutes from the capital, Kirkwall, with a few daily connections to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, so it is no problem to stay connected to the whole of Scotland and beyond. There are also three main vehicle ferry routes to and from Orkney to Aberdeen, Scrabster and Gills Bay.
This post is subject to a PVG Scheme Record Check
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Further information on this post may be obtained from: Suzanne Roos, Consultant Psychologist, CMHT, Health Centre, Kirkwall, Orkney (01856) 888280; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow the link for more job details and to apply online: http://nhso.engageats.co.uk/ Closing date for applications: 31st October 2017
To check the latest jobs please go to www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk To discuss the opportunities for advertising and promotion in The Psychologist, www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk and Research Digest, please contact Kai Theriault on 01223 378 051 or email email@example.com. 64 Full page bleed 210 x 262 new size.indd 1
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Nightingale Hospital is Central London’s leading independent mental health hospital. We are a multidisciplinary team providing tailored treatment programmes for individuals with mental health or emotional problems, eating disorders & addictions. We have a number of vacancies within our Therapy team to cover our inpatient, outpatient and day patient programmes including:
• Lead CBT Therapist • CBT Therapists • DBT Therapists
• Counselling Psychologists • Clinical Psychologists • Eating Disorder Specialists
We would be keen to hear from anyone who feels they have the skills and qualifications it takes to join our BACP accredited service. As well as full and parttime contracted positions we are also on the lookout for Sessional Therapists to join our team. For information: Go to www.nightingalehospital.co.uk Call 0207 535 7742 To apply: Send a CV & covering letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
Job Title: Numerous therapy roles Employer: Nightingale Hospital J.J. O’Connor, Nightingale Hospital’s Director, is plainly proud of its uniqueness. ‘It is located in Marylebone, central London where there has been a hospital since 1910. Since the late 1980s it has provided specialist mental health services and was acquired in 2014 by Groupe Sinoue, a leading provider of mental health services in France. We’ve grown busier and busier and now have 80 beds for inpatient treatment and growing outpatient services. Our acute unit was the first to have its therapy and counselling services formally accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.’ The hospital is the leading private mental health provider in central London. ‘This means that staff from diverse therapeutic professions work together in one department, offering many different treatment approaches for a huge range of conditions and the cross-pollination of ideas this engenders. So, these are ideal roles for people with experience and interest in an area, as well as those who want to learn. And we’re highly responsive. There’s a growing demand for very quick access to assessment and treatment, sometimes from businesses, and we can usually provide appointments within 48–72 hours.’ This large Therapy Services department comprises
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psychologists, psychotherapists, occupational therapists and nurses working in interdisciplinary teams providing treatment packages and therapies to both groups and individuals. ‘As I say we are seeking newly qualified and experienced candidates alike. I never turn down a good CV – I’ve found that as soon as you do that a vacancy arises! We’re particularly keen to fill our Lead CBT Therapist role to coordinate and develop the specialist CBT programme. Our current staff focus is to develop clear career pathways and to help support, train and develop our employees at every stage of their career. We fund self-development and provide supervision. We’ve recently introduced an Assistant Psychologist role, in addition to our well-established therapy Internship. Successful candidates would also be encouraged to participate in the hugely successful seminar programme delivered to General Practitioners, Occupational Health Physicians and corporate stakeholders.’ To sum up, what sort of people are you looking for? ‘Adaptable and flexible people who welcome being busy and who are happy, in particular to work with acute patients. It’s a growing team and I’m keen to see applications from a wide range of clinical and counselling psychologists.’
‘Greater humility about what our discipline can bring could, paradoxically, strengthen our contribution’ Theresa Marteau One inspiration
Professor Marie Johnston, my main PhD supervisor, who is one of the most scientifically fluent psychologists I have ever met, able to turn most – if not all – behavioural observations into testable and competing hypotheses drawing upon a wealth of psychological theories spanning the last century.
One moment that changed the course of your career
Getting my first grant. Complete beginners’ luck. I was working in Oxford as a clinical psychologist increasingly aware that my interest in psychology lay outside of the clinic. Sid Bloch, an eminent group psychotherapist who was supervising me running some groups at the time, introduced me to a friend of his, David Baum, a paediatrician with a special interest in childhood diabetes. David and Sid were fascinated by how families coped with the daily threats posed by having a child with this disease. Together we applied for a grant from the then British Diabetic Association. This funded my PhD, with Marie Johnston becoming my primary supervisor. And so began my research career, which can be measured out in grants that have enabled me to follow several lines of inquiry culminating in my current focus on changing environments to change behaviour to improve health.
One journal article all psychologists should read
‘A manifesto for reproducible science’ by Marcus Munafò et al. in Nature Human Behaviour in 2017. If you are a researcher, read and then ensure you have systems in your research group or department so that all research – from undergraduates to senior professors – is conducted in accordance with the principles outlined in this landmark paper.
One journal article that has had life-changing impacts on my friends
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‘The temporal pattern to the experience of regret’ by T. Gilovich and V.H. Medvec in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology in 1994. This paper explains why, in the
longer term, we generally regret inaction when facing a significant choice. Recounting this evidence empowered one friend to resolve his ambivalence over a career choice that would involve leaving a very good post in London and accepting the offer of one in Oxford. Almost 20 years later he has no regrets about moving to Oxford (obviously!). The son of a good friend recently thanked me in his wedding speech for my evidence-based encouragement for action when he was agonising late one evening about whether to fly out that weekend to Baghdad to rekindle a relationship.
None. But at least I understand the psychological processes by which I have arrived at this position.
One book for sixth-formers interested in psychology
Everyone Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are by Seth StevensDavidowitz (HarperCollins, 2017). The book takes us from the cerebroscope – a mythical device that would display a person’s thoughts – to our online searches as an opensource method for studying human behaviour. In addition to revealing some of our surprising, but mercifully hidden preoccupations, the joy of this book is the author’s creative use of these data to formulate and test a range of hypotheses, including the phenomenon of Freudian slips. You’ll have to read the book to find out how the test was done and what the data tell us.
One cultural recommendation
Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Preferably played by Murray Perahia and, for those already familiar with these, Robin Holloway’s Gilded Goldbergs.
One thing that you would change about psychologists Some psychologists have a tendency towards imperialism about their discipline, an observation made about sociologists by the sociologist Phil Strong some years ago. Greater humility about what our discipline can bring
the psychologist october 2017 one on one
Dame Theresa Mary Marteau is a health psychologist, professor, and director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge. Pictured here with Professor Paul Fletcher (left) and Dr Gareth Hollands, planning their Wellcome Collaborative Award in Science Behaviour Change by Design (www.bhru.iph.cam.ac.uk). Professor Marcus Munafò is the fourth grant-holder (not pictured). to address key questions about human behaviour and greater recognition of what we can achieve together with cognate disciplines could, paradoxically, strengthen our contribution.
One challenge you think psychology faces
Achieving a significantly larger share of research funding. This will require us to demonstrate more effectively the value of greater research investment in psychological and behavioural sciences. Arguably this should be easiest in my area of research – changing behaviour to prevent disease and reduce health inequalities. While funding has almost doubled in the last 10 years – from about 3 per cent to 5 per cent – it remains far too low given how much we could contribute.
One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
Learn to write by reading. This might be Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James (William’s brother), Virginia Woolf or, for the more task-focused, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction (Kidder & Todd, Random House, 2013)
One alternative career path
Photography. As a student, I spent many happy hours in dark rooms imbibing the smell of photographic fixer enabling the miracle of the negative made positive.
One hero from psychology past or present
William James for his astute observations and inferences about human behaviour: ‘Ninety-nine hundredths or, possibly, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of our activity is purely automatic and habitual, from our rising in the morning to our lying down each night’
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(William James, 1899). Beat that for language and predictive validity. It’s one of the great things psychology has achieved: generating the evidence that much of our behaviour is cued by our environments, often outside of our awareness, an effect far greater than we humans like to believe it is. This encompasses the work of James, as well as the social psychologists working after the Second World War to understand ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’, including Milgram, the work of Mischel and other situationists, as well as Kahneman and Tversky.
One joy in the mundane
Stationery. There are two groups of people in the world: those for whom heaven is a cornucopian stationery cupboard – with irresistible notebooks awaiting your thoughts, pens with the finest nibs and inks of every hue – and those for whom it isn’t.
I sat behind two young men on a train who were composing a letter to me on behalf of a colleague seeking an internship in my research group. I kept my head low in case they recognised me from our website that they were accessing at the time. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the answer would not be in the affirmative.
One resource of your own
‘Changing human behavior to prevent disease: The importance of targeting automatic processes’ – this is a short paper in Science in 2012 that outlines the behavioural and neuroscientific basis for my research focus on changing environments to change behaviour to prevent disease and reduce health inequalities.
Coaching at Work Jan-Feb 2014_coaching at work 25/11/2013 23:33 Page 1
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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.
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Kinship and loss We pose some questions for Damien W. Riggs and Elizabeth Peel about their new book Critical Kinship Studies
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ou begin each chapter in your book with a story; anything from the sci-fi film Splice, to the Frenchlanguage film Ma Vie en Rose, to the life of Angelina Jolie! Why did you take that approach? The topics we cover in the book are complex. Not only is talking about kinship always complex, but our aim for the book was to draw upon posthumanist theorising to extend our understanding of kinship beyond humans, and to critically examine Western human understandings of kinship. The stories gave us a way to introduce these complex ideas in a simpler way. We were able to pick out key parts from each story that highlighted the arguments we were making in each chapter, so that they were readily intelligible from the onset. We wanted the book to be an accessible introduction to the field. We
felt that using stories to open the theoretical chapters, as well as the topical content (of cross-species kinship, donor connections, loss, motherhood and recognition and institutional contexts), was a unifying and engaging approach. What’s critical about the kinship studies you’re interested in? As we note in the book, critical kinship studies has been a ‘thing’ for quite some time in other disciplines. Key thinkers such as Marilyn Strathern, Janet Carstens and Sarah Franklin have long critiqued the idea that kinship is a taken-for-granted fact rooted in biology, and instead have demonstrated how claims to kinship are ‘worked up’ in specific contexts. Our interest in writing the book
the psychologist october 2017 books
was to bring together this work, that of others, and our own, under a recognisable badging. From our viewpoint, what makes the badging deserving of the term ‘critical’ is that it questions the taken-for-grantedness of kinship, looks at kinship beyond human–human relationships, and includes diverse groups who are often excluded from more mainstream literature on families and relationships. I was particularly struck by the chapter on kinship and loss, and I am pleased we have an extract from that on our website (concerning narratives of pregnancy loss). As we note in the book, loss is a common feature of human life. Loss differs, however, across cultures, and is dependent on the object that is lost. We were particularly interested in how in Western cultures certain losses are acknowledged and indeed valorised, whilst other losses are minimised or dismissed. For example, spaces for mourning the loss of an animal companion are still marginalised. Spaces for recognising how one animal might mourn the loss of another are almost non-existent. And in terms of the discussion of pregnancy you mention, as medical technologies and prenatal imaging develop, parents are increasingly invested in their unborn child from a much earlier point in the pregnancy, being able to ‘see’ the child and thus visualise a ‘dream’ for their child and for themselves as parents to be. Yet for people who experience a pregnancy loss, the common response by friends and family is ‘You can have another’. Pregnancy loss remains very much a culturally silenced narrative. And loss doesn’t have to be simply about death? Exactly. Narratives of loss abound. For example, there is a growing body of literature – both academic and popular – that frames loss as a ‘natural’ response by parents of transgender children. Parents of transgender children are expected to experience their child as producing a loss of dreams or expectations of what their life would be like. We argue that such accounts locate loss in the wrong place. It is not transgender children who produce a loss, rather it is the broader context of cisgenderism – the ideology that denies people’s own understandings of their bodies and genders – that produces any sense of loss. What cisgender parents lose, then, is the privilege that comes from occupying a normative place in the world. Similarly for parents of those with a diagnosis of autism, it is the loss of a fantasised child that is the hardest to come to terms with, not the behaviours or personality of the child themselves. The mothers we interviewed struggled to reconcile their love for their child, and in many cases their staunch advocacy for the rights of their child, with a sense of ‘devastation’ at the diagnosis. So on the one hand, a diagnosis can facilitate access to support and services, whilst on the other hand it can cement the fears that the mothers had about their
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child’s neuroatypicality. It’s the gateway to acknowledging feelings of loss, but this sense of loss is a product of a broader social context in which neurotypicality is privileged. What binds these examples together? We were reliant upon Franklin’s (2013) understanding of kinship as a technology. Her understanding of kinship as a technology focuses on the ways in which claims to kinship produce particular ways of being, and naturalise particular relationships. In differing ways, all of the accounts of loss we outlined are produced in comparison to a particular idealised account of kinship, one in which the self is reproduced through a human child. Surely not all parents and people react in these ways though? Of course, personhood is attributed to non-human animals by some humans, and some intending parents attribute personhood to unborn children. In this sense, meaning is made despite it not necessarily being valued by society at large. One manifestation of this meaningmaking is seen, for example, in private (or semi-private) forms of memorialisation to – in some cases literally via tattoos – mark the lost children of intending parents, or to signify the loss of an animal companion. Bearing in mind your critical stance, what ways forward do you see with regard to speaking about loss in different ways? In the book we argued that loss is foundational to kinship because kinship is a fantasy – an illusion. If we think about Western narratives of finding our ‘other half’, for example, we can see how many of us come to determine our own worth via such narratives. Loss can thus be present for people who are unable to achieve this fantasy of another half, whether because they are unlucky in love, or they are in love but feel unsatisfied. Either way, in speaking about kinship as a fantasy, our aim was to critically examine normative fantasies whilst not letting this lead us into denying the losses that people experience. In other words, our point was not to theorise loss away, or to deny its existence. Rather, in Critical Kinship Studies our interest was to look at what gets pushed to the sidelines when only certain forms of loss are acknowledged, or when loss becomes an expected narrative. More broadly, at least in the chapter reproduced here, our aim was to consider what it might mean to think about kinship if we both acknowledge loss as foundational (in terms of fantasy), but also think about it as a concrete experience that is variously acknowledged or denied. And it is this pairing – of the loss of a fantasy and the ‘reality’ of the loss of that fantasy – that we believe requires further thought and critical investigation.
For an exclusive extract on Experiences of pregnancy loss, see our website
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race Reni Eddo-Lodge Bloomsbury; Pb £8.99
Barking up the Wrong Tree – The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong Eric Barker Harper One
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Educating others on structural racism cannot fall solely on black and brown shoulders Prompted by a viral response to a blog post of the same name, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race is a collection of seven essays by award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge exploring the role of race and racism in modern Britain. Eddo-Lodge walks the reader through a snapshot of British civil rights history (which is notably absent in the school curriculum) and gives a comprehensive 101 on systemic racism and white privilege. She then proceeds to critique white feminism and unpack the inextricable link between race and class. In the final essay, Eddo-Lodge urges white people to talk to other white people about race (because ‘they have so much less to lose’) as a vital part of a collective movement against racism.
She quotes the late Terry Pratchett, ‘there’s no justice, just us’ to stress that ‘the solution starts with us’ – all
of us, that is, who are in despair of the status quo concerning systemic racism. Contrary, therefore, to the provocative title, neither the book nor the blog post sets out to exclude white people from conversations about race. In the blog post, which is included in the start of the book, Eddo-Lodge qualifies the title statement with, ‘not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the existence of structural racism and its symptoms’. She describes the emotional exhaustion and frustration people of colour experience following conversations with white people about race and racism when these conversations are quickly dismissed or left unheard. Inevitably, this toil is compounded
Pondering success Barking up the Wrong Tree is a curious title for a book about success. It could be a pun on the author’s name, Eric Barker, or perhaps there lies a deeper meaning. Either way, Eric’s blend of witty anecdotes and fact turns Barking up the Wrong Tree into a winning scientific guide. I am a 17-year-old just getting to the grips with the world of psychology, having studied it for a year at school. I see the field of psychology as my ‘pond’; I’m fascinated by it. But how might I successfully navigate the waters? In Chapter 1, Barker explains that to be successful one must choose the right pond. Winston Churchill is used as an example: a maverick in politics, an un-groomed leader who didn’t play by the rules. His paranoia meant he was the perfect defender of his beloved country when Hitler rose to power: one of the few Members of Parliament to see what a great threat there was. Churchill was successful when perhaps a more traditional leader wouldn’t have been. But does this mean to be successful one has to be a rule breaker, a free thinker, a radical? No. Choosing the right setting,
by knowing yourself, can help you succeed. Barker discusses the importance of knowing your weaknesses. Having identified them, apply yourself to a situation where your usually ‘negative’ trait can be of some value. Before reading Barking up the Wrong Tree my views on success were fairly simple. I viewed success as a measurable quantity primarily dictated by wealth. To be successful in the monetary sense I believed three things were needed: stupidity,
opportunity and luck. To me and my pessimistic self, I assumed those who were extremely successful had to have taken risks presented by opportunity. These risks may have been more likely to fail; however, those stupid enough to commit sometimes got lucky… and when they did they became ‘successful’. I now realise success is made up of the big four: Happiness, Achievement, Significance (to others) and Legacy. To truly be successful you need to know what success means to you and what ratio of these four you want to achieve in your life. This is a mere glimpse into the world of success viewed through Eric’s scientific eye. Barking Up the Wrong Tree is an interesting, factual, realistic book on how to succeed. I would highly recommend it to anyone of any age, in any field, as its messages are relatable and applicable. Back to the title: if you want to become successful, change yourself, your pond. Stop barking up the wrong tree, start choosing the right path. Reviewed by Josh Shepherd-Smith, student
the psychologist october 2017 books
The beautiful durability of human delusion with the wide-reaching psychological impact of racism and associated micro-aggressions that serve to oppress people of colour in the first place. The book expands by explaining why educating others on structural racism cannot fall solely on black and brown shoulders. For example, EddoLodge highlights how well-meaning ‘colour-blindness’ expressed by white people – that is, the refusal to acknowledge difference in experience based on skin colour – serves to uphold systemic racism. Similarly, Eddo-Lodge outlines how virtue signalling or tokenism are, at best, inadequate and reductive, and, at worst, dangerous. Imagine being asked to speak on behalf of your entire race, to explain the actions, behaviour or thoughts – however questionable or out of sync with your personal value-system. This is often the reality for people of colour on panels and boards, who are often asked, not only to speak on behalf of their own racial group, but to speak to the entire spectrum of black and ethnic minority experience. We are increasingly seeing calls for inclusion, diversity, representation and equality within the research, practice, and teaching of British psychology. However, without a deeper understanding of some of the themes discussed in this book, these calls can lack a sense of potency or urgency. Conversations on race and racism are undoubtedly complex and uncomfortable. Although, no one text can be all-encompassing, this book is a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about systemic racism, white privilege and intersectionality, and the experiences of people of colour in Britain. As Eddo-Lodge states, ‘we cannot escape the legacies of the past, but we can use them to model our future’. Reviewed by Nadia Craddock, a PhD candidate at the Centre for Appearance Research and producer of the Centre’s Appearance Matters: the Podcast!
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Bertrand Russell once wrote ‘all that passes for knowledge can be arranged in a hierarchy of degrees of certainty with the facts of perception at the top’ and these degrees of certainty and facts of perception are the paragons probed in globally renowned neuroscientist Beau Lotto’s new book Deviate. It begins with an accessible introduction to recent scientific observations of human perception using the infamous white/gold dress debate to emphasise what we know and what still remains mysterious about perspicacity. Lotto asserts that this real-time field experiment captured imaginations across the globe precisely because it revealed that it’s not just those on the other side of the world, from another culture, that may interpret the world differently to us but those closest to us also. Lotto admits that an explanation for why this kind of simple simultaneous brightness contrast deviation happens is difficult to explain but suggests we might make progress if we concede that our brains ‘evolved to evolve’ to ever-changing environments, and they do this by continually redefining normality for us. It is not just impossible for us to see the world accurately but our brains do not care to, they care only about seeing the world usefully so that what we experience perceptually is the beneficial aggregate of past perceptions. Reading this, it instinctively registered as a deficit. I started to mourn all the wonderful information we’ll never get to see due to the relentless reflexive pruning our brains apply to every new experience, but according to Lotto, this is not a deficit. In fact, Deviate stresses that human beings need delusion in order to move forward and that our
ability to use our imagination to find relationships, even where there may be none, is a large part of what might fuel creativity and allow us to ask the kinds of useful questions that will us allow us to find new meanings in previously ambiguous environments in the future. As an artist drawn to science precisely because of its robust relationship with uncertainty, I found Lotto’s thoughts on our relationship with doubt and dubiety’s role in creativity the most significant and inspiring part of Deviate. It’s central contention is that to enter a situation with questions to be answered rather than answers that must be understood is the only way we can challenge our perceptual biases and allow the possibility of learning, and it’s this simple inversion of logic, the cherry on top of Deviate’s complex and provocative systematic review of perception that could have a seminal, Socratic influence not just on creativity but in the future development of creative solutions to all human problems, from education to relationships, political debate to conflict resolution and in terms of psychology, research prep, diagnosis and approaches to the therapeutic relationship. Deviate is the best book of any description I have read so far this year. It is an ambitious and triumphant trope that skilfully argues a scientific case for seeing differently that is hard to reject once your brain has decided it might just be useful to you too.
Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently Beau Lotto Hachette; Pb £12.30
Reviewed by Niall James Holohan, musician, writer and BSc in psychology undergraduate at Birkbeck, University of London @nialljholohan on Twitter and on www.nialljholohan.com
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Artist Brian Searle with his artwork
‘I’m still the same person’ Sara Simblett visits ‘Making Faces’, an exhibition presented by Submit to Love Studios at the Southbank Centre on life after brain injury
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he exhibition ‘Making Faces’ was set up to ‘explore the face, the body, the self and the disjuncture between what is seen and what is felt’. Situated in the bustling Southbank of our capital it is a powerful public expression of honesty and hope. The Submit to Love Studios, based at Headway East London in Hackney, is home to a collective of self-taught artists who share a single life experience: all have survived an acquired brain injury. This unique exhibition showcases the talent as well as the insight of these artists, as a way to make sense of their experiences. The mix of contemporary, almost lifesize portraits on 3D cardboard boxes, more traditional mounted images, and a range of artistic techniques, including painting, collage and printmaking, reflects a diversity of styles to represent a diversity of experiences. On first impression, the vibrant colour gives rise to an uplifting sense of creative expression. Delving deeper, the rawness of human emotional experience is revealed through words embedded in the images. There are stories
of ‘darkness’ and loss. One artist writes: ‘My life has been shattered into a million pieces’; and another: ‘I’ve been feeling confused about life. I mean I need to be doing more with it. I’m married. I’ve got a lot to take on. I’m in a chair. I cannot talk and that makes it very hard to be understood.’ The sadness of how others respond is also captured: ‘People go through hell. They get called names.’ The exhibition does not shy away from the sometimes harsh reality of living with a disability. Yet alongside this, is a message of optimism and strength for these artists and their families. In the image above, the artist speaks of living a ‘new life’ that is highly valued and taken more seriously; in their own words, ‘it makes us stronger… I want to keeping grabbing life with both hands’. One collage is dedicated to the challenges and passionate spirit of parenting after experiencing a brain injury, with the words ‘I proved them wrong!’ in prime position. Another recounts one artist’s happiness in getting married after a ‘hit and run’ road traffic incident.
the psychologist october 2017 culture The sense of coping in spite of hurdles thrown in by life leaves a powerful impact on the passing observer, one that is enhanced by listening to the audio recording of an interview with two of the artists from the exhibition, where they debate questions of a philosophical nature about what art is and what it means to them. Billy, who was a journalist before experiencing a stroke, talks about how creating art has inspired him to share and teach others art too. Being from a background in clinical psychology, and working in neurorehabilitation services to support people through periods of emotional distress after experiencing an acquired brain injury and conducting research to better understand this, I was particularly struck by the messages portrayed in this compact and poignant exhibition. Models of psychological adjustment, such as the ones described in thoughtprovoking books like Tamara Ownsworth’s Selfidentity after Brain Injury, emphasise the importance of considering a ‘self-system’ comprising multiple identities, be it one’s past self, one’s current self or one’s possible future self. The value of social identity, one’s group membership and one’s roles in life are major parts of this, as are the ability to participate in activities that provide meaning and purpose (as a partner, as a parent, as a journalist, or as an artist or teacher, perhaps). Other thinkers in this area have suggested that acceptance of a new identity and active attempts to cope with challenges may be routes to finding hope and wellbeing after a brain injury, with some finding that difficult experiences bring newfound personal growth. In holistic neuropsychological models, the effect on the wider system surrounding the person who has experienced the brain injury is not forgotten. This exhibition validates these theories but also highlights the importance of listening to the firsthand experiences of people affected by a brain injury. Whilst one person wrote, ‘You have to surrender and accept where you are’ and posed the question ‘why do I feel like I’m not who I was anymore?’, the message from another was quite contradictory and clear ‘I’m still the same person’. The need to consider every person as an individual, coming to terms with their experiences, in their own way, is still there. The idea that artistic expression can support this process is not a revelation, to me at least, but a reminder that there is value in thinking more creatively about meeting the needs of people who have experienced a brain injury. Submit to Love Studios offers an opportunity to embrace the role as an artist and explore self-identities as part of a community that feels safe and welcoming. In their audio interviews Chris and Billy spoke of coming back to Headway for years, a true testament to the significance of their work. This exhibition was a wonderful chance to gain a glimpse into this and, I hope, the start of more to come. Reviewed by Dr Sara Simblett, a researcher and Clinical Psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London
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When murder is a memory the children of the accused, makes It’s Iceland, 27 January 1974: what happened especially poignant Gudmundur Einarsson disappears. to the viewer. The public got to On 19 November 1974 a second man, glimpse how broken Saevar became, Geirfinnur Einarsson, disappears. as a result of his failed attempts 12 December 1975: A man, Saevar to clear his name, and the toll this Ciesielski, is arrested. He tells the investigation took on all of them. police that an argument had ended in If there was any weakness at all, Gudmundur’s death. it is that early on in the programme, Saevar’s girlfriend, Erla before any sense that the confessions Bolladottir, is arrested the following could be false is brought to light, it day. After questioning, she reports manages to conjure up this image the interviewer suggesting she’d of Saevar’s criminality and potential witnessed Saevar’s involvement. guilt. The narrator talks about Saevar Police were also interested in and the others lying to the police. Yet, knowing whether Saevar knew this isn’t true: they didn’t purposely anything about what happened to lie to the police, but were coerced Geirfinnur Einarsson. The body has into memory distortions through a never been found to this day. flawed police investigation. In the end, Saevar and The six had problematic three other men supposedly backgrounds, and they involved – Kristjan Vidarsson, tv weren’t well educated, but Tryggvi Leifsson and Albert Storyville such factors – as well as Skaftason – were held in BBC Four being young – are probably custody for Gudmundur’s what exacerbated their murder. Saevar and Kristjan susceptibility to police coercion in the also made a statement that they first place. were present when Geirfinnur As the documentary continued died. Despite subsequent claims of though, my initial concern about its innocence and statement retractions by the accused, as well as a complete direction was overturned. Forensic psychologist Gisli Gudjonsson’s [see lack of evidence on the part of the tinyurl.com/psychgisli] contribution police, six people were convicted of to the case and programme is the murders of both men. pivotal in re-directing discussion On reviewing diary entries away from the idea of the men lying, made by the men whilst in prison, and towards the notion that the six however, it emerged that maybe were in fact extremely vulnerable. the confessions were unreliable. It transpires that the police found The heavy-handed nature of gaps in their memories and worked the investigation materialised: on them until they began to think: the six didn’t have access to maybe something did happen and I legal representation, and were don’t remember. interrogated many more times than This case is of utmost importance the police reports said. Saevar, for and interest because it highlights example, was interviewed 180 times how easily ordinary people can end for 340 hours, and spent 615 days in up very vulnerable. Notwithstanding solitary. Erla was interrogated 105 advances in police interviewing, the times and spent 241 days in solitary. risk of unreliable confessions and Tryggvi was kept in solitary for 655 memories from general population days. The police destroyed them individuals remains an issue to this psychologically. day, given that a large proportion of Dylan Howitt’s masterly Storyville vulnerable detainees are still not charts one of the most substandard, identified in custody and given the and damaging to those accused, protection they need. criminal investigations in history. The programme is well directed, and Reviewed by Dr Kim E. Drake, Senior I especially liked Erla Bolladottir’s involvement. Her narrative in her own Lecturer, Department of Psychology, Swansea University words, as well as the participation of
radio The Edge of Life BBC Radio 4
tv No More Boys and Girls BBC Two
Messages of hope and determination A man who has survived the storm of suicidal thoughts and actions throughout this life explains: ‘I started to feel down, down to a point where it was uncontrollable… If I didn’t seek help, I would have tried another suicide attempt.’ This 40-minute documentary on the devastation of suicide, and a new approach to suicide prevention currently being trialled in Liverpool, included interviews with people with lived experience as well as experts in mental health and suicide prevention. The programme was presented by Matt Haig, the author of the brilliant Reasons to Stay Alive. The central focus of the programme was on the potential of applying the American approach of ‘ Zero Suicide’ to suicide prevention in the UK. Zero Suicide started as an approach for treating depression with the aim of eradicating suicide deaths at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, USA. Although the approach has not been subject to an RCT, it has
been effective in Detroit, with the proponents reporting a substantial reduction of deaths by suicide within the Henry Ford System including zero suicides for two years. Recognising suicide as an urgent problem, Joe Rafferty, the CEO of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust decided to prioritise suicide prevention across Merseyside – and he turned to the Zero Suicide approach. Rafferty made a bold promise: ‘We decided, as an organisation, that we are going to do something really different: anybody who comes into our services and who is in contact with Mersey Care should not die by suicide.’ To start to realise this goal, in September 2015 Mersey Care launched their own Zero Suicide strategy, working with Professor Louis Appleby and his team at the University of Manchester to implement the evidence about what works to prevent suicide. Although it is still early days, the implementation of the Zero Suicide
Reviewed by Tiago Zortea, who is in the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, University of Glasgow
A first step in a revolution? The introduction of the UK Equality Act in 2010 was a turning point for gender equality, but in the seven years that have passed, has the UK become a gender equal society? Many argue yes, because there are now laws against sex discrimination, but sex inequalities are rooted deeper than the laws that govern a society at a given time. The two-part BBC documentary No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? sought to test just how equal UK society is since the introduction of the Equality Act, by working with seven-year-olds who, in theory, have been raised from birth in a gender-equal society. It becomes clear early on in the documentary that despite the changes in the law, boys and girls are not being raised equally. Initial tests reveal girls’ lack of selfesteem and a tendency to refer to themselves purely in terms of their appearance. Meanwhile, boys score highly on spatial awareness, but struggle to express themselves emotionally – except for anger. These differences reflect longstanding gender stereotypes that pre-date the Equality Act and persist to this day. In the documentary, Dr Javid Abdelmoneim questions the extent to which these gender stereotypes, embedded and normalised
Find more reviews online at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/reviews including Rasanat Fatima Nawaz and Sarah Ward on Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds.
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programme in Merseyside has already changed staff perceptions and their approach to suicide, and service users have been positively affected by these changes. People with lived experience, such as Angela Samata (who lost her partner to suicide; see BBC documentary Life After Suicide), has also contributed to the implementation of the strategy. There are many challenges to reducing suicide to zero, and funding for suicide research and prevention is imperative to achieve this goal, as there remain many gaps in our knowledge. Although the Zero Suicide initiative in Merseyside is still relatively new and there is a lot to do, the messages of hope and determination are stronger than ever, because suicide is not inevitable and the change for a better life is possible.
in everyday life, are the cause of the test results. The biological differences between males and females do not fully explain gender inequalities, so Javid implemented a range of interventions to test what happens when we remove gender stereotypes from children’s lives. When it comes to gender inequality, many often underestimate the effect of nurture, attributing differences between males and females solely to their biological differences. It is culturally ingrained to treat males and females differently, so few see the harm in the extreme but everyday gendering exposed by the documentary. For example, parents failed to link dressing their children in sexist slogan t-shirts with the way their children then think about themselves, or that gendered toys limit the skills their children can develop. The experiment sought to remove gender stereotypes from these children’s lives, for example by shedding gendered language, removing gendered toys, and introducing the children to non-conforming role models, such as a female mechanic and a male ballet dancer. Six weeks later, in comparison to the control group there was evidence of significant changes in the way the children thought and felt about themselves, as well as their behaviours and achievements. Teaching the children to challenge ingrained assumptions about gender improved not only the girls’ self-esteem, but opened their minds to their
the psychologist october 2017 culture
Visit https://thepsychologist.bps.org. uk/worth-striving for a conversation between Professor Uta Frith and Professor Essi Viding around the BBC Horizon documentary ‘What Makes a Psychopath?’; plus review from Professor David Pilgrim future potential. Removing gender stereotypes was not only beneficial for females; the boys were able to express a wider range of emotions, which was thought to explain the 57 per cent decrease in their disruptive behaviours. These findings have been met with praise and a resolution for change by many, but the documentary has also received criticism. Many of these criticisms stem from the confusion between the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. The documentary advocates a need to discard gender, not sex. There will always be biological differences between males and females, but what needs to change is how we treat individuals based on these differences. Gender stereotypes are harmful to all; they create inequalities that are limiting for all sexes, and it is for these reasons that we should remove sex-specific expectations and assumptions. Indeed, there are positive traits and behaviours that are seen as typically ‘masculine’ or typically ‘feminine’; the message is not that we should discard these, but that we should encourage these in all individuals. Abolishing gender stereotypes would also reduce a well-established psychological phenomenon; stereotype threat. Stereotype threat occurs in relation to a social identity that can be deemed negative in some circumstances, creating a threat of fulfilling this negative
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stereotype (see Claude Steele’s 2011 book Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do). Doing a difficult task whilst trying to avoid fulfilling a negative stereotype can cause the individual to exert so much effort that it actually results in underperformance, attributed to increased anxiety and rumination. In relation to gender, this threat perpetuates the inequality bred from birth and evinced in this documentary, but would not exist if identities were not so heavily gendered in the first place. The documentary makes a bit of an overgeneralisation by suggesting that these results, found in one primary school class on the Isle of Wight, may apply to children across the country. This remains to be seen, but what we do know is that these small, easy-to-implement changes began to undo the negative consequences of deeply rooted gender stereotypes. This experiment can be seen as a first step in a revolution intended not to raise sexless children, as critics suggest, but instead to raise boys and girls equal in confidence, aspirations and beliefs, in turn helping them to become happier, healthier, more authentic versions of themselves. Reviewed by Samantha Wratten from the University of Bath
The fringes of the human mind
The Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, has attracted an increasing amount of performers to explore the topic of mental health. In recognition, this year for the first time there is a Mental Health Fringe Award, initiated to encourage and trigger conversations surrounding the stigma of mental health as well as to reconstruct the perceptions of getting help. We asked Tanya Bhayani to review some of the exciting performances on offer. The Mental Health Fringe Award was deservedly won by Kane Power at the Scotsman Fringe Awards for his first solo project ‘Mental’, performed at Edinburgh’s Assembly Roxy. Power describes his first one-man show as ‘an exploration of the modern mind with music, anecdotes and medical notes’. He was able to create an atmosphere of empathy, as well as depict the complexity of his mother Kim Power’s struggle with bipolar disorder in an ardent and relatable manner. His language in describing his relationship with his mother sometimes felt like listening to The Mental Health Fringe Award was poetry. He entwined educative but deservedly won by Kane Power
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incredibly personal elements of their journey together through the use of poignant song lyrics, desperate to be in his mother’s mind and ‘bring her back to Earth’. The set, created by Ruby Spencer Pugh, featured an illuminated graph of brain waves: Power creatively explained they were the comparisons of somebody suffering with bipolar disorder and somebody without it. He reproduced the journey into his mother’s head with acoustic guitar and keyboard; the journey felt palpable as the music represented the ‘manic’ phase of bipolar disorder with abrupt transitions to the depressive nature of the disorder. These aspects of the show were particularly engaging and potent, allowing the audience to gain a sense of the disease. Overall, the performance allowed me the opportunity to meet someone who could honestly speak about their experience of a loved one suffering with a mental health problem. Power openly explained that he is not an expert, and that this was merely a depiction of his mother’s lived experience of bipolar disorder. Another event that explored the topic of mental health was a raw and vulnerable performance by 26-year-old Nicole Henriksen. The award-winning performer explores her experience of anxiety in ‘A Robot in Human Skin’, a one-woman show at the Underbelly, Edinburgh. Through a series of comedic and emotional anecdotes, Henriksen spoke in a way that allowed each individual to feel present on her journey. For a moment,
the psychologist october 2017 culture
imagine sitting on the bus and suddenly feeling your heart rate speeding up. The next stop is your stop. You quickly get up, removing yourself from the idea that someone might spontaneously sit next to you. Running to the doors and beginning to sweat, you wonder if you’ve missed the stop, or better, it is instead much later than you thought. This was one of many thought processes that Henriksen was able to effortlessly present, laced with humour with a fluid transition to emotion; she invited the audience into her world of persistent worry. Henriksen included several different portrayals of her encounter with anxiety and need to be perfect (akin to being a robot), as well as speaking to us about her experience. She performed in only her undergarments and a box on top of her head; ironic to the anxious person that she was inside her brain. She introduced each segment of the production with clear written signs stating at which point she was at in the show. This highlighted her need for structure, because without it she would remain anxious. She went on to share her battles with feeling alone with anxiety, and reflected on the positive reactions received when she told them that she suffered from the condition, reinforcing the importance of unconditional understanding. Henriksen was not only courageously outspoken about the way anxiety affected her, but she seamlessly invited the audience on the journey to understand it. In a different format, ‘Fine, thanks’ was a verbatim musical performed at Edinburgh’s C Venues, and featured a multitalented cast of 15 young people. The underlying theme of the show was to help break the boundary between speaking about mental and physical health issues; they should be analogous. The production was set in a ‘group discussion’ style – where the characters openly shared real experiences and struggles with mental health and drug addiction, reinforcing the growing idea that it is most definitely fine to speak about your mental health. This style of awareness raised the beneficial impact of having a discussion, but it felt short in its attempt to introduce anything particularly novel in our understanding of the importance of mental health. Despite this, the cast creatively raised some very critical points using song, such as the fact that more than one in four individuals will experience a mental health problem; and if that if it isn’t you, then it will be somebody close to you. It appeared deliberately amateur, allowing those without a background in understanding mental health to relate in some form, through discussing exam and parental pressure on children as well as the role the government has played in escalating these concerns. The final show I attended was a stimulating insight into modern neuroscience performed at Edinburgh’s Assembly George Square Studios. Baba Brinkman, emphasising his niche as a ‘middle-class, white Canadian
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Nicole Henriksen explores her experience of anxiety in ‘A Robot in Human Skin’ peer-reviewed rapper’ uniquely explored the scientific study of consciousness and probability theory in his ‘Rap Guide to Consciousness’. He focused on the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness, questioning why we have subjective experiences at all. He went on to explain that some neuroscientists believe that there is no hard problem; it is simply a flawed intuition, comically highlighting that it’s ‘like believing that your children are above average’. The production condensed and cleverly simplified modern neuroscience into a collection of rhymes, humour and lecture-style talks. Brinkman introduced a famous philosophical argument, described as the ‘Knowledge Argument’ by Frank Jackson in his 1982 ‘Epiphenomenal qualia’ paper. It is the assumption that an individual, Mary, knows all the physical facts that there are to know about colour vision from a black and white room – without having seen colour herself. Mary then leaves the room and enters the colourful world. The question is – did Mary learn something new? Brinkman has a refreshing stage presence, interacting with the audience and encouraging us to participate in answering these sorts of questions: Why does subjective experience feel like something? Why does it feel as though there is a hierarchy of conscious beings? Why do we feel worse when we hear of a suffering dog and not a suffering insect? The Rap Guide to Consciousness offers an insightful, greatly informative experience in learning about modern neuroscience in a manner that didn’t feel like the typical experience of learning something new. Brinkman offers a funny, but serious appreciation of the wonders of the human mind. Tanya Bhayani is an undergraduate psychology student at the University of Aberdeen, and our new ‘Scottish Correspondent’
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The Freudian motivation behind 1967’s Sexual Offences Act Adam Jowett on Labour MP Leo Abse’s role
his July marked the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised sex between men in England and Wales. Readers may be aware of this historic landmark due to cultural celebrations such as an exhibition of Queer British Art at the Tate and a Gay Britannia season of programming by the BBC. What readers may be less aware of is the Freudian influences that motivated a backbench MP to champion this law reform. The liberalisation of the law followed the Wolfenden Report on homosexuality and prostitution in 1957, which recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality between consenting adults over the age of 21. However, it took another 10 years and several failed attempts – notably by Lord Arran and the gay Conservative MP Humphry Berkeley – before these recommendations were enacted in Parliament. The successful piece of legislation that eventually passed through Parliament was brought forward as a Private Member’s Bill by an eccentric backbencher with a Freudian take on the matter. Leo Abse was a Jewish Labour MP who represented the South Wales mining constituency of Pontypool. He became an MP in 1958, a year after Key sources the Wolfenden Report had made its recommendations. Unlike Berkeley Abse, L. (1968). The Sexual Offences who had previously taken up the Act. British Journal of Criminology, 8, cause in the House of Commons, 86–87. Abse was himself heterosexual. A Abse, L. (1973). Private member. number of factors could be said to London: Macdonald. Freud, S. (1951). A letter from Freud have influenced Abse’s decision to (April 9, 1935). American Journal of champion the cause. His first wife, Psychiatry, 107, 786–787. who was an artist, had many gay Gleeson, K. (2008). Freudian slips and friends, and prior to being an MP coteries of vice: The Sexual Offences Abse was a solicitor and saw firstAct of 1967. Parliamentary History, 27(3), hand how gay men were suffering as 393–409. Weeks, J. (1989). Sex, politics and a result of the law. Abse recounted society: The regulation of sexuality since that, as a lawyer in Cardiff, his 1800. Harlow: Longman. fees from the criminals he was defending all started coming from
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the account of one man. Upon investigating the matter, he discovered that the man paying their fees was a gay vicar who was being blackmailed. Abse threatened to have one of the criminals arrested for extortion and told the vicar to come to him if they approached him again. But Abse claimed that it was Freud who was his main inspiration for taking up the cause. Abse proudly described himself as a Freudian. He liked to drop Freudian references into his political speeches, and in retirement he would go on to write psychoanalytic biographies of political figures such as Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. It was known that Freud himself was a supporter of law reform on this issue. In a private letter dated 1935 and later published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Freud (1935/1951) explained to a concerned mother that homosexuality ‘is nothing to be ashamed of’ and that ‘[i]t is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime and a cruelty too’. As a Freudian, Abse believed that we all have a predisposition to bisexuality but through psychosexual development most become heterosexual with homosexual feelings remaining latent. He believed that it was this fear of one’s own latent homosexuality that drove people to homophobia. In his 1973 memoir Private Member Abse attributed Parliament’s decade-long resistance to implementing the Wolfenden recommendations in Freudian terms. He suggested that permitting freedom to homosexuals was interpreted by many as a personal threat; that MPs (and particularly Conservatives) equated a relaxation of the law with a relaxation of the control over their own repudiated desires. He believed it was fitting that the rallying cry of his opponents was that a change in the law would ‘open the floodgates’, as they unconsciously feared it would open the floodgates of their own repressed homosexuality. He believed that the many debates and the press attention over the intervening decade had led to a form of catharsis that brought anxieties to the surface and released tensions enough for the recommendations to be passed into law by Parliament. In a 2007 interview in The Guardian Abse claimed that he believed he was doing more than just releasing homosexuals from criminality.
the psychologist october 2017 looking back
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Several years later in 1970 He believed that by encouraging the radical Gay Liberation Front society to come to terms with its Adam Jowett formed. They too believed bisexuality rather than repudiate is a Senior everyone was born with bisexual homosexuality, ‘it was the start Lecturer in potential, but they had no desire of opening up society to be more Psychology to be pitied. They believed that caring and sensitive. One was at Coventry tackling homophobia would free battling for all men and women to University. He the homosexual in everyone. Their have greater freedom.’ is also Chairmanifesto would mention the In his memoir Abse suggests Elect of the British Psychological limitations of the Act: ‘The Sexual that ‘to have pleaded Freud would Society’s Psychology of Sexualities Offences Act gave a limited licence have alarmed too many in the Section. to adult gay men…Beyond this House of Commons, insufficiently email@example.com there are a whole series of specific secure in their own heterosexuality minor offences. Although “the act” to acknowledge their homosexual is not illegal, asking someone to go to bed with you dispositions’ (p.153). So instead, Abse invoked pity to can be classed as “importuning” for an immoral act, convince his fellow parliamentarians. He would later claim not have believed a word of it but viewed himself and kissing in public is classed as “public indecency”.’ Abse was appalled at this rising as a rhetorician, tactically framing his argument in movement for liberation. On the a way that would convince his audience (Gleeson, 40th anniversary of the Act The 2008). In the House of Commons Abse argued that: Guardian quoted him as having said: ‘The paramount reason for the introduction of this ‘Those of us putting the bill through bill is that it may at last move our community away thought that, by ending criminality, from being riveted to the question of punishment we’d get the gays to integrate. But of homosexuals which has hitherto prompted us I was disconcerted and frightened to avoid the real challenge of preventing little boys at first because they were coming from growing up to be adult homosexuals. Surely, out and turning themselves into a what we should be preoccupied with is the question self-created ghetto.’ In expressing of how we can, if it is possible, reduce the number of faulty males in the community’ (Leo Abse MP, HC such sentiments, Abse undoubtedly continued to offend the community Hansard, 19 December 1966: col. 1078). he claimed to have fought for. He was probably right when in the Abse would later express regret at referring to gay men same interview he commented, as ‘faulty males’. Whether his true motivation for the ‘when I’ve shown any reservations Bill was to shift society’s focus onto preventing future generations of homosexuals, as suggested in this speech, about the gays, they haven’t Leo Abse MP, in 1967 forgotten’. or whether he was crafting an argument he felt would In his later years Abse resented persuade a homophobic audience, is impossible to tell. the fact that the gay community wasn’t more grateful. Yet such arguments secured Abse an ambivalent status He complained that on his 90th birthday he never had in the collective memory of the gay community. one word of thanks from any gay activist. However, his Such ambivalence was also felt towards the Act ambivalent status as an ally of the gay community is itself. The 1967 Act only partially decriminalised something he has in common with his hero, Sigmund homosexual acts between men: sex between men remained prosecutable unless it took place under strict Freud. While Freud’s reassuring letter to the concerned mother of a gay son shows that he was sympathetic to conditions of privacy; it continued to be a crime for more than two men to have sex together (despite there the plight of gay men, he is perhaps more commonly remembered for having referred to homosexuality being no equivalent law for heterosexual sex); the age as a form of ‘arrested development’ – a notion that of consent was set higher at 21 and; it did not apply to conversion therapists use to pathologise homosexuality the armed forces or the merchant navy. to this day. Abse himself was well aware of the Act’s Yet on the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences limitations. Only a year after the Act was passed, Act, Abse’s law is widely being hailed and celebrated he commented in the British Journal of Criminology as an important landmark in the advancement of gay that ‘the penalties attached to some public displays rights. As the influence of psychoanalysis has waned of homosexuality are too harsh’, that provisions and Freud’s theory of sexuality is widely discarded which continued to make homosexual acts between within psychology, it may seem an odd quirk of history servicemen criminal were ‘unrealistic’, and that if that Freud’s ideas played such an important role in the notion of privacy were interpreted too narrowly motivating the politician who championed the law it would ‘thwart the legislature’s intentions’ (Abse, reform. Yet without this eccentric Freudian, we may 1968). Abse’s concerns were well founded. Arrests and have waited much longer to make that first small step prosecutions of gay men actually rose in the years (and indeed decades) following the Act (Weeks, 1989). towards gay equality.
Nottingham – 21 November Phil Banyard, Nottingham Trent University; Stephan Gibson, York St John University; Thomas Muskett, Leeds Beckett University; Alison Torn, Leeds Trinity University.
London – 5 December Gustav Kuhn, Goldsmiths University of London Catherine Loveday, University of Westminster Stephen David Reicher, University of St Andrews Elizabeth Stokoe, Loughborough University Ashley Weinberg, University of Salford. For full details and book your tickets see: www.bps.org.uk/p4s2017
London – 6 December Sophie Carrigill, Paralympian Paul Dawson, Mayor’s Office for Policing & Crime Vincent Deary, Northumbria University Ella Rhodes, BPS – The Psychologist. For full details and book your tickets see: www.bps.org.uk/p4g2017
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DOP Annual Conference 2018 and Awards Night 10-12 January 2018 – Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon
Confirmed Keynote Speakers Professor John Antonakis, University of Lausanne Professor Robert Hoffman, The Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), Florida Dr Elaine Pulakos, President of PDRI, USA
What can I expect? • • • • • •
Seven streams of presentations to choose from Optional pre- and post-conference CPD workshops Advice sessions on qualifications and careers Networking, social and entertainment programme Welcome and support for first-time & international delegates Exhibition, poster displays and fringe events. Please email for information on the sponsorship and exhibition packages we can offer: firstname.lastname@example.org • Registration is open and an early bird discount is available until 8 November For more information visit www.bps.org.uk/dop2018 or email email@example.com
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...is for Justice
‘Now more than ever the field of psychology has a big part to play in supporting and helping people towards justice. I also think it applies to the part the field had to play in earlier days of mental health treatment and, indeed, mistreatment. Perhaps we’re coming to terms with this… the openness from professionals in the field regarding their own mental health journeys is also part of that acceptance.’
Social justice has been a prominent concern of the last two Presidents of the British Psychological Society: search ‘Twelve ways to make an impact’, and ‘Our turbulent minds’ on our website. Why might innocents make false confessions, leading to miscarriages of justice? Kim Drake outlined the research in her October 2011 article.
A 2011 study suggesting hungry judges dispense harsher sentences has been widely shared, but a blog from Daniel Lakens this year (tinyurl.com/
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Suggested by Michelle Jamieson @themichjam
coming soon… the rules of unruliness; the changing workplace; an interview with Paul Gilbert; plus all our usual news, views, reviews, interviews, and much more...
yaw26y66) concludes the finding is ‘impossible’. According to Norman Feather in his June 2012 article, ‘Deservingness along with entitlement are central justice-related variables that feature in all walks of life… achievement outcomes in schools and organisations, interpersonal relationships and political life…’ A new study led by Ceyhun Elgin, covered on our Digest, suggested the religious take a pragmatic approach towards the needy that expresses their compassion while remaining consistent with their beliefs about a ‘just world’.
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
contribute... reach 50,000 colleagues, with something to suit all. See www.thepsychologist.org.uk/ contribute or talk to the editor, Dr Jon Sutton, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 116 252 9573 comment... email the editor, the Leicester office, or tweet @psychmag to advertise... reach a large and professional audience at bargain rates: see details on inside front cover
Search for more on this topic and any other via www.bps.org.uk/thepsychologist and www.bps.org.uk/digest
Find out more online at www.bps.org.uk
President Nicola Gale President Elect Professor Kate Bullen Honorary General Secretary Dr Carole Allan Honorary Treasurer Professor Ray Miller Chair, Membership and Standards Board Dr Mark Forshaw Chair, Education and Public Engagement Board Vacant Chair, Research Board Professor Daryl O’Connor Chair, Professional Practice Board Alison Clarke
society notices Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology Annual Conference Stratford-upon-Avon, 11–12 December 2017 See p.34 Psychotherapy Section Conference ‘Trauma and development: Culture, contexts and narratives’ London, 3 November 2017 See p.38 DCP Faculty for People with Intellectual Disabilities Annual Conference Glasgow, 21–22 March 2018 See p.43 BPS conferences and events See p.50 Psychology in the Pub (South West of England Branch) Exeter, 25 October 2017 See p.50 CPD workshops 2017 See p.51 Division of Academics, Researchers & Teachers in Psychology Annual Conference Birmingham, 6–7 June 2018 See p.60 BPS Annual Conference Nottingham, 2–4 May 2018 See p.69 Division of Clinical Psychology Annual Conference Cardiff, 17–18 January 2018 See p.74 Psychology for Students (P4S 2017) Nottingham, 21 November; London, 5 December See p.86 Psychology for Graduates (P4G 2017) London, 6 December See p.86 Division of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference Stratford-upon-Avon, 10–12 January 2018 See p.86
The Society has offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and London, as well as the main office in Leicester. All enquiries should be addressed to the Leicester office (see inside front cover for address).
The British Psychological Society was founded in 1901, and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1965. Its object is ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied and especially to promote the efficiency and usefulness of Members of the Society by setting up a high standard of professional education and knowledge’. Extract from The Charter
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Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is the most innovative and unique behavioural approach towards treating personality disorders to have emerged in a generation. It was the first mainstream psychotherapy to incorporate mindfulness practice at its core. Originally developed by Professor Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington in Seattle as an eclectic approach to treating Borderline Personality Disorder, its evidence base is now second to none. Multi-modal DBT programmes have been implemented by trained clinicians in many countries with diverse health systems, working relentlessly across a range of clinical and forensic settings to create lives worth living for people facing complex, severe and enduring psychological challenges. British Isles DBT Training is the sole licensed UK provider of training, consultation and supervision in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, officially recommended for consideration in the Borderline Personality Disorder Guideline for treating repeated self-harming behaviours (NICE, 2009). In partnership with the Linehan Institute*, our team has contributed to establishing international accreditation criteria for DBT therapists, based on rating tapes using the adherence scale developed by Marsha Linehan’s research lab in Seattle. The Society for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy now forms the only demonstrably independent Board Of Accreditation in the UK which is accepting applications for accreditation in the UK and Ireland based on these international criteria. OUR TRAINERS All our trainers have been supervised either by Marsha Linehan or one of her original DBT Consultation team All our trainers are experienced clinicians who have had their sessions assessed to ensure they are adherent to Linehan’s model before attempting to train others—the only UK training team with *International Affiliate status British Isles DBT Training operates an apprenticeship program for new trainers-in-training under the supervision of Dr Michaela Swales in which their technical expertise is honed by more experienced DBT Consultants. Constant assessment and feedback ensures that quality is maintained at the highest standard OUR EXPERTISE AND OUR ACADEMIC LINKS We have been training DBT teams in the UK and Ireland since 1997 — over 410 at the last count — and are fully equipped to advise on programme implementation in every type of clinical setting where severe and enduring behavioural issues arise. Our DBT Intensive Training™ format is the basis for your academic journey in DBT: the Postgraduate
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Including chemicals and the brain, a psychology kindergarten, testosterone, interviews with Erica Burman and Dame Theresa Marteau, and all s...
Published on Sep 18, 2017
Including chemicals and the brain, a psychology kindergarten, testosterone, interviews with Erica Burman and Dame Theresa Marteau, and all s...