psychologist vol 27 no 11
Camps, conflict and collectivism Sixty years on, a special feature on Muzafer Sherif and his Robbers Cave studies
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can reassurance hurt? 842 interview: the Rt Hon Lord Owen 848 new voices: ‘It’s like plaiting fog’ 850 looking back: liberation psychology 888
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the psychologist... ...features Camps, conflict and collectivism 826 Sixty years after the Robbers Cave study, Stephen Reicher and S. Alexander Haslam introduce an appreciation of Sherif for today and for tomorrow
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The view from the boys Gina Perry looks at how Sherif’s participants saw his studies
Necessarily collectivistic 838 Michael J. Platow and John A. Hunter reflect on Muzafer Sherif’s Boys’ Camp Studies
New voices: ‘It’s like plaiting fog’ 850 Eleanor Willard on dyscalculia and problems with ‘number sense’, in the latest of our series for budding writers
ISSN 0952-8229 Cover Robbers Cave montage by Mercedes Uribe www.mercedesuribe.com
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Can reassurance hurt? 842 Yuefang Zhou and Gerry Humphris have their own worries about the ‘don’t worry’ message in medical procedures
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The unknown Muzafer Sherif Aysel Kayaoğlu, Sertan Batur and Ersin Aslıtürk consider the social psychologist and political activist
The Psychologist is the monthly publication of The British Psychological Society. It provides a forum for communication, discussion and controversy among all members of the Society, and aims to fulfil the main object of the Royal Charter, ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied’.
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vol 27 no 11
psychologist vol 27 no 11
the issue ...reports news the Nobel (and Ig Nobel) Prize; e-cigarettes; students and stats; war; and more
society President’s column; call for nominations; Birmingham Science Festival; Public Engagement Grant; World Mental Health Day; Going Green; and more
...debates letters the end of autism?; the ‘Invisible College’; ‘tinkering’ with hallucinogens; assisted dying; dyslexia; sex abuse; Scottish referendum; Sandra Bem; and more
...digests male scientists work–life balance; praise; have we found Little Albert this time?; and more from our free Research Digest (see www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog) 820
...meets interview The Rt Hon Lord Owen talks to Ian Bushnell about hubris syndrome and his work with the Daedalus Trust
careers we meet community psychologist Jim Orford; Rob Rooksby on his collision of American football and psychology; and Heather Tinkler describes her work as a Clinical Studies Officer for an NHS Foundation Trust
one on one 892 with Catherine Loveday, Principal Lecturer at the University of Westminster and Chair of the Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee
My eldest son is 10, and this month he goes away on a residential trip with school. I suspect that my wife and I are more uneasy about this than he is, but you can be sure he wouldn’t cope well with the kind of events and manipulations experienced by the young boys in the famous ‘Robbers Cave’ study. In the summer of 1954, the social psychologist Muzafer Sherif and his wife Carolyn brought 24 ten- to twelve-year-old boys to a 200-acre Boy Scouts of America camp in the Robbers Cave Park in Oklahoma. The boys didn’t know it, but over the next three weeks they were to take part in the Sherifs’ third and final intergroup conflict study. Snakes would be shot; tents would be pulled down; flags burnt. Our special issue explores the impact on those boys and on the world of psychology; an impact resounding 60 years later. In the words of Reicher and Haslam (p.826), ‘we come neither simply to praise Sherif, nor to bury him. Rather, we hope to provide a balanced and timely assessment of his work and to inspire others to take up the reins’. Dr Jon Sutton Managing Editor @psychmag
...reviews Thrive; Before I Go to Sleep; Institute of Art and Ideas; China’s addicted teens; stories from an NHS whistleblower; the male and female brain; and more
...looks back Liberation psychology – a history for the future 888 Wayne Dykstra considers Ignacio Martín-Baró’s enduring and international influence
The Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee Catherine Loveday (Chair), Phil Banyard, Olivia Craig, Helen Galliard, Rowena Hill, Victoria Mason, Stephen McGlynn, Tony Wainwright, Peter Wright
Three years ago Go to www.thepsychologist.org.uk for our archive, including Christian Jarrett on the lure of horror
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Big picture centre-page pull-out Explanation: art by Jeffrey Stern, thoughts on therapy by Kirsty Kennedy
The end of autism?
It’s 70 years since Kanner first wrote about ‘autistic disturbances of affective contact’, but as contributors to October’s special issue ‘Autism: Myth and reality’ pointed out, autism is still a puzzle. Several authors mentioned the probable existence of autisms (plural), but still referred to ‘the condition’, ‘having autism’ or to ‘sub-types of autism’ (all singular). The terminology we use by default reinforces an implicit assumption that autistic characteristics must have something in common at the biological as well as the behavioural level. It’s this assumption that in my view is largely responsible for autism remaining an enigma. ‘Autism’ began as Bleuler’s descriptive term for the withdrawn state seen in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, hence the initial assumption that schizophrenia was involved. Kanner (1943) ruled that out and listed 20 ‘essential common characteristics’ in the 11 children he’d seen. By 1956, 120 children had been diagnosed and Kanner and co-worker Eisenberg were obliged to review their list of commonalities (Eisenberg & Kanner, 1958). They abandoned several and collapsed the rest into five items. By the time Wing and Gould carried out their large-scale study in 1977, the number of common characteristics had been whittled down to three (Wing & Gould, 1979). This trend – the more children diagnosed, the fewer and less specific the diagnostic criteria – rang alarm bells about criterion validity; Kanner himself complained about a ‘pseudo-diagnostic wastebasket’ (Feinstein, 2010). The term ‘autism’ had shifted from being a behavioural descriptor to being widely construed as indicating a single medical condition, albeit one framed exclusively in behavioural terms. Researchers have tended to focus on commonalities and behaviours and to overlook differences and somatic symptoms. Because the sensory abnormalities, hypermobility, food intolerances and digestive problems often reported as concurrent with autistic behaviours are not common to everybody diagnosed with autism, they’ve been marginalised as ‘comorbidities’ even though they could be indicators of the causes of autistic behaviour. Gillberg and Coleman (1992), for example, noted the association between autistic behaviours and chromosomal abnormalities, metabolic disorders, viral and bacterial diseases, structural malformations, sensory impairments and 20 other medical syndromes. The implication is that autistic behaviours are analogous to, say, respiratory problems; all patients have some symptoms in common but not
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all respiratory problems have the same causes. There are likely to be common causes for autistic behaviours within groups. But that doesn’t make them subgroups of autism. It’s possible there’s an underlying common cause for all autistic characteristics. But we don’t know that and shouldn’t assume it, especially if it means marginalising differences and somatic symptoms, and thus overlooking important clues to the causes of autistic behaviours – and health issues in individuals. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about the end of ‘autism’. Sue Gerrard Shropshire References Eisenberg, L. & Kanner, L. (1958). Early infantile autism 1943–1955. In C.F. Reed, I.E. Alexander & S.S. Tomkins (Eds.) Psychopathology: A source book. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Feinstein, A. (2010). A history of autism. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. Gillberg, C. & Coleman, M. (1992). The biology of the autistic syndromes (2nd edn). London: Mac Keith Press. Kanner, L. (1943). Autistic disturbances of affective contact. Nervous Child, 2, 217–250. Wing, L. & Gould, J. (1979). Severe impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: Epidemiology and classification. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 9, 11–29.
In the interesting special issue ‘Autism: Myth and reality’ (October 2014), differing views are offered about whether autism is
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fundamentally a dimensional condition or a categorical one. Thus, for example, Uta Frith suggests a categorical view by asserting that: ‘people with autism really have a very different mind and different brain’ (p.745). This inevitably invites the questions ‘Different from whom?’ and ‘Different in what way?’. However, one important answer to these questions emerging from this issue is that people with autism have minds and brains which are very different from each other. In view of the spectacular differences between people with autism, I cannot avoid wondering about the nature of this supposedly distinct condition which those diagnosed are all presumed to share. The answer typically proposed is that these differences can be understood as reflecting different values of some variable along an autistic dimension. Thus it is hoped that some explanation can be offered for the heterogeneity of autism and the fractionable autism triad (Happé & Ronald, 2008). But then what are the dimensions along which individuals are supposed to vary and how many such variables are there? The re-defined DSM-5 criteria for autistic spectrum disorder imply that there is one general dimension of autistic symptomatology, represented by the ‘spectrum’. Simon Baron-Cohen (2008) proposes two key dimensions described as ‘empathising’ and ‘systemising’. By contrast, Francesca Happé in the interview article talks about ‘a multi-dimensional space’ (p.764) encompassing the elements of the autistic triad together with levels of intellectual and language functioning. So it is far from clear how these questions can be resolved. Despite this increasing emphasis on dimensions of autism, it continues to be viewed as a singular psychological or neurobiological disorder. Thus Happé, apparently reflecting Frith’s view, says that in relation to problems in theory of mind ‘[there] probably is a qualitative difference’ (p.764, italics in original) – this looks very much like a categorical view. So the dominant view is still underpinned by the rarely questioned assumption that autism represents a psychobiological natural kind with its own unique essence waiting to be discovered (Verhoeff, 2012). This recurs in its redefinition in DSM-5 as a ‘spectrum’ disorder, implying that the failure so far to find a unifying explanation shows that autism is an even more complex neurobiological disorder than previously supposed. The notion of an autistic ‘spectrum’ appears to reinforce the conception, within autism research and advocacy communities, that it remains a distinct condition with an elusive ontological and biomedical essence (Verhoeff, 2014). Given the heterogeneity of autism, evident in its multitudinous causal pathways and in its phenotypes, this elusive essence must presumably exist somewhere between these pathways and their final expression. However, it is hard to see what explanatory work is done by the concept of autism itself. Hence one can reasonably ask whether it can hold together any longer as a coherent diagnostic category. Dr Richard Hassall CPsychol Department of Philosophy University of Sheffield References Baron-Cohen, S. (2008). Autism and Asperger syndrome: The facts. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Happé, F. & Ronald, A. (2008). The fractionable autism triad. Neuropsychology Review, 18, 287–304. Verhoeff, B. (2012). What is this thing called autism? A critical analysis of the tenacious search for autism’s essence. BioSocieties, 7, 410–432. Verhoeff, B. (2014). Stabilizing autism: A Fleckian account of the rise of a neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 46, 65–78.
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The hidden face of autism Wading through the many interesting articles in October’s autism issue, I grew frustrated at the lack of discussion concerning autistic females. The image of autism as a predominantly male condition has been littered throughout the media in recent years, giving a biased view of what being autistic looks like and what it means. A more plausible view is that the disorder affects females in identical ways, but the female brain interprets and handles these impairments differently. The implication is that there is a hidden population of females with autism who may never be identified or supported; many are also misdiagnosed and thus incorrectly treated. I was 23 when I received my diagnosis of AS. I had been to hell and back to get to this point, and all because I was a girl. I did not like trains; I was not particularly fussed about numbers; I could look people in the eye; I had never hacked into a computer; I did not display any psychotic tendencies; and I had friends. I have received many diagnostic labels throughout my relatively short life, and I have been over-indulged in therapy, much of which has been hilariously bad or damaging. I approach the task of dealing with my emotions with the same rigour as a scientist trying to find specific genetic coding does – intellectually and slightly removed. But emotions are hard to grasp onto. As an autistic person, trying to think about your emotions and work out what you are feeling is like trying to contemplate the size of the universe and its meaning, if not harder. Being a good chameleon, however, diverts away from core problems, and it’s a skill that females on the spectrum are adept at. After my diagnosis I decided to go on and research what I knew best and what I most wanted to learn more about: females with autism. In
doing so I hope I can also help a lot more women like myself, whose stories are all worryingly similar. Only one fifth of girls are diagnosed with their autism before the age of 11, compared with over half of boys (see tinyurl.com/7s9gpby). We know the core impairments they have are identical, but it seems their manifestation and the coping strategies used often differ (Lai et al., 2011). Females also seem more aware of their autistic traits, as do their parents (Holtmann et al., 2007). With more pressure to fit in and be social, females learn to adapt and put on Oscar-worthy performances every day; it is no wonder stress induced mental illnesses are rife in these women. Atwood (2007) describes how such a coping strategy may be a female-specific reaction to being different; in order to achieve superficial social success, these women imitate people deemed as socially competent. The main aim of my own research is to make identifying girls on the spectrum quicker, offering the support that they need and helping them to achieve their full potential. Teachers, therapists and doctors see isolated problems in girls, and are failing to see the bigger picture. In order to understand autism as a whole, we need to address this historically neglected minority. Hannah Belcher PhD student Anglia Ruskin University www.aspertypical.com References Atwood, T. (2007). The complete guide to Asperger’s syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley. Holtmann, M., Bolte, S. & Poustka, F. (2007). Autism spectrum disorders. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 49(5), 361–366. Lai, M., Lombardo, M.V., Pasco, G. et al. (2011). A behavioural comparison of male and female adults with high functioning autism spectrum conditions. PloS One, 6(6).
Lagging behind in autism provision? I was pleased to read the collection of features on autism in the October issue. As an assistant psychologist with a personal interest in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) I am always interested in progress made towards increasing public awareness of ASD and vanquishing the myths of the diagnosis. While the thriving autism research of the last 25 years, as cited by Uta Frith, should most definitely be a cause of excitement and pride, I can’t help but wonder whether we are still falling short in clinical contexts. Having worked across various mental health services, I have commonly experienced clinicians’ reluctance, hesitance, caution
or outright refusal to comment on or work with aspects of ASD. At times, this has come from clinicians keen to seek the best possible care for their service users. At other times, it has come from clinicians eager to deny the existence of autism and related diagnoses at the time of their training and therefore their responsibility in providing appropriate care for such individuals. Whichever the reason, the outcome is often a referral to psychology. While I agree that clinical psychologists are well placed to formally assess individuals
for ASD, provide psychological intervention, and refer to specialist services if needed, it seems that autism now faces a battle to gain a place in mainstream mental health services. Once diagnosed, simple changes can easily be made by all staff disciplines to better accommodate the needs of an individual with ASD and dramatically improve standards of care, treatment outcomes and patient experience. Although the general public are becoming increasingly au fait with autism through their
experiences of individuals with ASD in popular culture, films and novels, perhaps mental health services are lagging behind. With the Autism Act 2009 now making it obligatory to assess for ASD if there is a suspicion of a diagnosis, I suspect the ‘autism epidemic’ is likely to continue to grow. I encourage all psychological therapists to share their expertise with colleagues so that we are all better able to appropriately support the Raymond Babbitts (Rain Man), Christopher Boones (The Curious Incident…) and Sheldon Coopers (Big Bang Theory) of this world. Amy Jones Beckenham, Kent
Nothing about us without us The recent special edition on autism raises interesting issues with regard to the British Psychological Society’s code of ethics. This states that psychologists should ‘remain abreast of scientific, ethical, and legal innovations germane to their professional activities, with further sensitivity to ongoing developments in the broader social, political and organisational contexts in which they work’. With these issues in mind, can we presume that the views expressed in the special edition are not the only views to be aired within the ‘broader social, political and organisational contexts’ in which psychologists work? In the USA, 37 States have introduced new laws to ensure that parents have access to applied behaviour analysis (ABA). There is no mention of this remarkable social development. Indeed, there is no mention of ABA anywhere. Views of ABA in the UK are blinkered by a period in the history of autism treatment around the use of aversives. Interestingly, Lorna Wing (1966) recommended a ‘smack, a loud firm “no” or putting the child out of the room’ (p.272) for children with autism. Schopler et al. (1980) described the use of ‘aversive and painful procedures’ such as meal deprivation (p.121), ‘slaps or spanks on the bottom’ (p.121), and ‘electric shock, unpleasant tasting or smelling substances’
(p.122) as methods that could be used if other methods do not work. For some unknown reason, it has been Lovaas who was much more heavily criticised for using these methods than Wing or Schopler (see tinyurl.com/mdr8h8r). The aversive consequences to manage behaviour should be viewed in historical perspective. In the UK the ‘cane’ was used to inflict corporal punishment in mainstream education for all children, until it was finally outlawed in 1987! In private schools corporal punishment was not banned until as recently as 1999 in England and Wales, 2000 in Scotland, and 2003 in Northern Ireland. This is by no means a justification for the use of aversives, nor can it be used to justify a blinkered view of general education, but it helps to put into context the allegations that the use of aversives was a feature peculiar to behavioural interventions in the 1960s. Sadly, corporal punishment was generally part of life then. Corporal punishment and the widespread use of aversives are no more advocated in ABA than they are accepted anywhere else in modern-day society (Sidman, 2000). The focus of ABA is to help facilitate behavioural growth and skill development to enhance the quality of life. Within the UK, misrepresentations of ABA abound and these are replicated in the media and social media (see tinyurl.com/ol7yhpr).
For those involved in the disability rights movement, the phrase Nothing about us without us expresses the belief of people with disabilities that they know what is best for them. The words are a rallying call for people who experience powerlessness in their resistance to dealing with disability oppression. But the phrase has taken hold in many other situations where people find themselves to be victims of oppression by people who claim to know better what is best for them. Can we presume that in the interests of BPS ethical guidelines there will be another special edition on autism that gives voice to professionals trained in ABA, and parents in the UK who are banding together to avail of ABA services despite the many obstacles placed in their way (see ABA4All on Facebook)? Mickey Keenan University of Ulster References Schopler, E., Reichler, R.J. & Lansing, M. (1980). Individualized assessment and treatment for autistic and developmentally disabled children. Vol. 2: Teaching strategies for parents and professionals. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed. Sidman, M. (2000). Coercion and its fallout. Boston: Authors Cooperative. Wing, L. (1966). Early childhood autism, clinical, educational and social aspects. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
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The ‘Invisible College’ I am concerned about the evolving nature of our profession and, perhaps, the nature of professional science also. It seems to me that, increasingly, the peer-review process for the established academic journals has become anachronistic. This came to mind recently after two of my co-authored publications took three years to go to print (print itself being perhaps something of an anachronism); not because of the necessity of repeated edits, but simply because the journal’s editorial process took that long with a single review and copyedit. From speaking to colleagues I understand that this is, sadly, far from unusual. Similarly, I and colleagues have had papers on contentious subjects such as gender and sexuality blocked, or given major corrections based on rather strange bases; including on one memorable occasion on the basis that it was a replication. This has been termed the ‘Invisible College’ in that, instead of writing rebuttal papers psychologists are using the review process, not to check for quality and appropriateness, but to stop the dissemination of interpretations of
data they disagree with. I fear the response to this by many who seek to publish has been two things: First, it has meant a move to non- or nominally peer-reviewed online publication in the form of blogs and forums, rather than journal publications. These have the benefit of almost immediate publication and wide dissemination outside of the costly ‘open access’ (print and online) published journals. While fast, this almost necessarily lacks the scholastic rigour of the peer review system. Second, I fear it has led to the rise of the dubious ‘Expert’. Increasingly I see people who have rightly gained acclaim and qualification in a specific chosen field leverage that ‘expertise’ to claim expertise in associated fields where they have not undertaken formal research or qualification – sometimes for the taste of celebrity which speaking in these fields bring. Not uncommonly these associated fields are ones in which the ‘Expert’ has a personal rather than professional expertise. Thus people blog or speak as
‘experts’, without fear of the moderation (or dare I say it? – the opprobrium) of their peers. A quick search of their peerreviewed publications and qualifications reveals this is not uncommonly on topics for which their sole source of knowledge is personal experience of self, friends and, of course, blogs. I have some hope, however. Academic publishers must move with the times to remain commercially viable, and I hope that this is, slowly, happening with ‘Online First’ and the like; although journal editors will still need to take a firm hand with the ‘Invisible College’. I hope also that we can resist the allure of being the ‘Expert’ at everything and strive for integrity, both professional and personal, in the Aladdin’s Cave of the manifold opportunities of the digital age – otherwise surely the noble pursuit of journalism, but not professional psychology, awaits. Christina Richards Senior Specialist Psychology Associate and Clinical Research Fellow Nottingham
‘Tinkering’ with hallucinogens I am very critical of a whole edition of The Psychologist being devoted to hallucinatory drugs (September 2014). Am I wrong in thinking that the general public and many psychologists must be wondering where the views expressed in this edition will lead us? Is this what the general public needing treatment expects of psychologists?! I thought they had the right to be dealt with using psychological techniques rather than the use of drugs predominantly those of a hallucinatory nature. I wonder how many others will join the fray because they feel as I do about the articles published concerning hallucinatory drugs. You have a most liberal editor otherwise those articles would never have seen the light of day. I object to the fact that all psychologists may be tarred with the same brush in that
All psychologists may be tarred with the same brush
they accept and believe in the use and value of the drugs being indicated rather than considering them, as I do, as dangerous and unnecessary for human happiness. There are of course exceptions, such as in the case of individuals who are dying who may need to be prescribed almost anything to reduce their pain and suffering during their last days. This, however, I do not consider to be the case for ordinary
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individuals who have psychological problems. I believe there are much better ways to achieve contentment and to make one’s life worth living than to resort to methods which could potentially be harmful. As a now 86-year-old with fewer years ahead than behind me I have always enjoyed life through physical fitness, sports, being creative and even making love. Although I have never been averse to an alcoholic drink from time to time, I have avoided smoking and the use of substances that can only be considered drugs generally, and leading to some form of addiction. My own work with extremely addicted individuals who do not respond to ordinary treatments and rehabilitation has led me to write about how such states of enslavement can be effectively overcome. My views are in some ways extreme and may
raise hackles in some quarters, but I also feel that my ideas about preventing addicted individuals overdosing or dying from their addiction will be viewed, by some at least, as favourable compared with the substances advocated in the last edition. I believe most psychologists are opposed to ‘tinkering’ with dangerous hallucinatory substances, whether or not they have been used by famous individuals such as Henry James, Aldous Huxley and others. I will always consider such hallucinatory substances as both physically and psychologically potentially harmful and addictive. I believe on the whole there are better ways of dealing with individuals with traumatic psychological problems than those indicated in this last edition of The Psychologist. Dr L.F. Lowenstein Eastleigh, Hants
Nobel Prize Three neuroscientists with backgrounds in psychology have won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. John O’Keefe, whose PhD was in physiological psychology, shared the prize with husband and wife May Britt-Moser and Edvard Moser. O’Keefe received the prize for his 1971 discovery of place cells. He found that a type of nerve cell in the hippocampus was consistently activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room while other nerve cells were activated when the rat was in a different place. O’Keefe drew the conclusion that these place cells formed a map of the room, laying the foundation of our understanding of how our brains form a picture of space and how we navigate. He received his doctoral degree in physiological psychology from McGill University, Canada, in 1967. After that, he moved to the UK for postdoctoral training at UCL, where he remained and was appointed Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in 1987. May Britt-Moser and Edvard Moser were postdoctoral students in O’Keefe’s lab and discovered grid cells in the brain cells of rats in 2005, these, they found, helped the
animals to understand their location in the world. Psychologist Hugo Spiers, head of the Spatial Cognition Group at UCL, was trained by O’Keefe. He told The Guardian: ‘All three scientists awarded the prize have dramatically changed how we understand the brain’s navigation and memory systems. John O’Keefe made a remarkable discovery in 1971 when he found “place cells” in a brain region called the hippocampus, which provide an organised map of space in their activity patterns. ‘O’Keefe speculated that John O’Keefe place cells would need information akin to latitude similar to the lines that mark out and longitude in order to map space. distances on a globe. Grid cells and place Where this signal was located remained cells offer one of the few bridges mysterious until 2005 when May-Britt neuroscientists have linking the cellular and Edvard Moser discovered “grid level to the cognitive level, as they help cells” in a brain region known as the explain how individual brain cells help medial entorhinal cortex. These cells us navigate, remember the past and show hexagonal patterns of activity imagine the future.’ ER stretching over the space traversed,
Research to make you laugh... then think Triad. They tested 263 participants, How reindeer react to seeing humans dressed 74 males, online using measures as polar bears, the use of nasally inserted strips for narcissism, psychopathy and of pork to treat nosebleeds and the mental Machiavellianism as well as the hazards of cat ownership were among the Morningness Eveningness winners in the 24th annual Ig Nobel prize Questionnaire to uncover awards. The Ig Nobel prize celebrates scientific chronotypes. They found that the research that, at first glance, is verging on the ‘darker’ aspects (Machiavellianism, hilarious but, importantly, makes you think. secondary psychopathy and This year’s prize-winner in the Psychology exploitative narcissism) were linked category was a study that found that people to a night-time preference. The who habitually stay up late are, on average, researchers point out that this more self-admiring, more manipulative and disposition will take advantage of more psychopathic than people who habitually the ‘low light, the limited monitoring rise early in the morning. and the lessened cognitive processing of The study by Dr Peter K. Jonason Night owls – on average, more morning-type people’. (University of Western Sydney), Amy Jones self-admiring, more manipulative Dr Jonason told The Psychologist: and Dr Minna Lyons (both Liverpool Hope and more psychopathic ‘I watched an episode of QI a few weeks University) looked into the hypothesis that ago. Stephen Fry said that if you cannot Dark Triad traits in individuals (psychopathy, win a Nobel prize, the next best thing is an Ig Nobel. This is Machiavellianism and narcissism) would be linked to an a glowing endorsement of the award in my mind and thus I am ‘eveningness disposition’, due to previous evidence that this happy to receive it.’ evening chronotype (an individual difference that reflects a The research was covered on our Research Digest blog – see person’s propensity to go to sleep/wake up early or late) is linked tinyurl.com/ogacnpc. to impulsivity and risk-seeking and limited conscientiousness The prize, organised by The Annals of Improbable Research, and agreeableness – which have all been linked to the Dark
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OPEN SCIENCE In October the Royal Society launched an open-access journal, Royal Society Open Science, the first of the Society’s journals to cover the entire range of science and mathematics. It will allow publication of work received without the restrictions of traditional journals on scope, length or impact. The journal uses objective peer review, publishing all articles that are scientifically sound, leaving any judgement of importance or impact to the reader. Essi Viding, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at University College London, edits the Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience section of the journal. She said: ‘Royal Society Open Science is an open-access journal for all areas of science. We are keen to promote high-quality psychology research. All submissions are judged on their scientific merit and ability to advance the knowledge base. We wish to avoid positive results bias and there is an option to pre-register submissions.’ The journal is open to submissions of all high-quality science including articles that may otherwise be difficult to publish elsewhere, for example, those that include negative findings. Open Science also offers open peer review as an option, and articles published have a number of article-level metrics and encourage post-publication comments. As well as Professor Viding, the editorial team consists entirely of practising scientists, and as well as accepting direct submissions it accepts articles referred from other Royal Society journals. ER I For more information on Royal Society Open Science visit tinyurl.com/lugddef
began in 1991. The ever-quirky ceremony is held at Harvard University and this year honoured winners from five continents, with the awards handed to the winners by four genuine Nobel laureates: Carol Greider (Physiology or Medicine, 2009) Eric Maskin (Economics, 2007), Rich Roberts (Physiology or Medicine, 1993), and Frank Wilczek (Physics, 2004). Among the other winners were Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, in the physics category for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor. In the neuroscience category the winners were Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast. The ‘Public Health’ category prize went to Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíc˘ek and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan and Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat. The medicine prize was won by Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, based in the USA and India, for treating uncontrollable nosebleeds using the method of nasalpacking-with-strips-of-cured-pork. Norway and Germany-based researchers Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl won the Arctic Science prize for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears. ER
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E-cigarettes - part of the problem, or a solution? The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a report calling on governments to regulate the advertising and marketing of e-cigarettes more closely and to ban their use indoors. This has re-ignited debate between those who believe the devices can be a useful aid in quitting tobacco smoking and those who are concerned they could pose health risks (including their use as a ‘gateway’ to tobacco for young people). In August the Department of Health ruled out a ban on using the devices inside. However, Dr Lynne Dawkins (University of East London) said some of the recommendations in the WHO and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) were overly cautious. She said the objective of the WHO and FCTC was to avoid and protect against death and disease caused by smoking and second-hand smoke. ‘However,’ she continued, ‘in this report the WHO overstates the potential adverse effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)/e-cigarettes and downplays the advantages for public health – for example, ignoring the recent report by West and Brown that among 6000 respondents, e-cigarettes are associated with a 60 per cent increase in odds of quitting compared with licenced nicotine products’. Dr Dawkins said that by focusing on minor or
implausible issues, such as their role in a pathway of addiction, the WHO was continuing to treat e-cigarettes as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. She told The Psychologist: ‘Whilst I agree with some of the
recommendations for regulation, for example, to minimise content and emissions of toxins and ensure the use of pharmaceutical grade nicotine, many others, such as banning solutions with fruit, candy or alcohol like flavours, or a ban on indoor vaping, are overly cautious and not commensurate with the risks. Many smokers are unwilling or unable to quit despite multiple attempts even with licensed smoking cessation products: for these smokers, ENDS/e-cigarettes could be a lifesaver.’ ER I For more on smoking cessation see Dr Dawkins’s article in the May 2013 issue of The Psychologist: tinyurl.com/m37ulh6
Students and their struggle with stats A report has been released that looks at the mathematical and statistical needs of undergraduate students going into studying psychology. Skills in Mathematics and Statistics in Psychology and Tackling Transition is one of a series of six discipline-specific reports produced by a Higher Education Academy STEM project. In undergraduate psychology, an Alevel in mathematics is not usually needed to be accepted onto a degree course. Perhaps inevitably, the report suggests that many undergraduate students are surprised at the amount of mathematical content in their degree programmes and some struggle to cope with this content. Statistics writer and psychologist Dr John Reidy (Sheffield Hallam University) said students could be better prepared for the amount of statistics likely to be included within psychology undergraduate courses, through online documentation and open days. But Dr Reidy added there was a danger of putting students off from applying for psychology degrees, and they should be reassured that they would receive support throughout the course. He added: ‘Psychology departments often have strong links with local schools, and we should utilise such links more to ensure that prospective students are made aware of the
mathematical content of the degrees to which they are applying.’ Dr Reidy said many psychology departments are very good at increasing students’ confidence in their statistics ability, he added: ‘One of the key ways of increasing students’ confidence is to provide them with plenty of opportunities for practising their statistical skills in a supportive environment. It is usually by doing statistical analysis that students increase their confidence levels.
TWITTER LIST The news department of the journal Science has released a list of the 100 most-followed scientists on Twitter, a list that includes several psychologists. This comes after the website published a list of the 50 most popular scientists on Twitter, which caused ripples of controversy after questions were raised about the measurement of ‘Twitter impact’ that was used and the lack of female and ethnic minority scientists included on the list. The news site’s initial list was part of a story looking at the use of Twitter by scientists. This came after a tongue-in-cheek proposal by genomicist Neil Hall for a so-called Kardashian Index (K-index). The proposed measurement compares a researcher’s number of Twitter followers with the number of citations to an individual’s academic papers. The article also created a list entitled The Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter, which caused controversy when some of the scientists named called it a ‘meaningless popularity contest’. However, on this new list, which has been expanded to include economists, several psychologists and female scientists are visible. In the Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter the psychologists include author and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker with 145,000 followers; psychologist, author and Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire Richard Wiseman with 135,000; and professor of psychology and behavioural economics Dan Ariely with almost 79,000 followers. Richard Wiseman, when asked his opinion of such lists, quipped: ‘It depends where I am on them :-)’ ER I The BPS Research Digest keeps a list of psychologists who tweet: tinyurl.com/nmvbgzy I The original list of 50 scientist Tweeters can be found here: tinyurl.com/nppknfn I The top-100 list: tinyurl.com/o994a7r
‘It is important that students are encouraged to run analyses on their own, not in groups or in pairs as this avoids the temptation for those who are fearful or struggling, or relying on others to do the analyses for them. This calls for appropriately resourced laboratory environments to ensure that during each session students are not sharing access to PCs. The report highlighted the fact that the majority of departments provided two to four quantitative methods modules and so it is apparent that departments are providing students with a range of opportunities for undertaking such analyses and thus increasing their statistical confidence.’ When asked whether universities should introduce diagnostic testing of mathematical ability at the start of courses, as the report recommends, Dr Reidy said: ‘I think that in principle diagnostic testing of mathematical ability has key benefits for staff and students alike. In practice though there is a big resourcing issue associated with such an intervention. It is not so much the testing of the students but the means of acting appropriately on the findings of such diagnostic testing. ‘Psychology courses typically have very large cohorts of students and therefore trying to tailor the provision and support for students based upon the results of such testing would potentially be highly resource-intensive. The introduction of such testing would need to be very carefully planned to anticipate the possible impacts upon other aspects of the psychology curriculum.’ ER
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Good showing in book awards Clinical psychologists received commendations for several works at the British Medical Association book awards in September, including books about coping with breast cancer and complicated grief. The books were all highly commended in the Popular Medicine category. Emotional Support Through Breast Cancer: The Alternative Handbook by Cordelia Galgut received a commendation. Cordelia, a breast cancer survivor herself, presents a person-centred guide to the emotional effects of breast cancer. The judges commented: ‘It's fantastic that it is written by a psychologist who is able to use her own experience.’ Frances Goodhart and Lucy Atkins’ book How to Feel Better: Practical Ways to Recover Well from Illness and Injury looks at why a serious illness or injury does not just affect the body; it affects the mind-emotions, confidence, mood, relationships. It argues
that the old idea of rebuilding your physical and emotional resources after a health crisis is just as relevant today as it was for the Victorians or Edwardians. Judges said: ‘This is a great book which gives sensible, practical, realistic advice and information to the person (and carer) recovering from illness.’ Frances said: ‘I was thrilled to receive this award from the BMA for a book with a focus upon the importance of the psychological recovery process after illness or injury – “a modern art of convalescence”. It was also great to see so many other excellent books by psychologists – or with a psychological theme – similarly endorsed. I think it reflects an increasing recognition within the medical community of the psychological impact of a lifelimiting or chronic illness – as well as an appreciation of the practical, evidence-based, psychological coping strategies so clearly presented in these books.’
Living with Complicated Grief by Craig A. White was also highly commended. This book looks at how to cope with long-lasting grief following a bereavement, so that it becomes possible to accept the death and master its impact. Judges said: ‘I would recommend this book to be put on medical school reading lists. We have a few psychology lectures; however, they are often not hugely relevant. This book is very relevant to our career, both for ourselves and when communicating with patients and families. Finally Ray Owen’s Living with the Enemy: Coping with the Stress of Chronic Illness Using CBT, Mindfulness and Acceptance also received a commendation. Using the latest developments in cognitive behavioural therapy, which emphasise mindfulness and acceptance, and including links to downloadable audio exercises and worksheets, this book shows how people can
live better despite a long-term condition. Judges said: ‘The main strength of this book is the case studies that are used throughout, which provide characters that readers can readily identify with and learn from. It is almost like being in a focus group within a book.’ The category was won by Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress, and Restoring Wellbeing by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman, which points to evidence that mindfulness is very effective for reducing pain. It also argues that mindfulness can significantly reduce the anxiety, depression, irritability, exhaustion and insomnia that can arise from chronic pain and illness. Judges said: ‘The authors themselves have written the book with their own suffering and pain and how the simple set of practices can help relieve chronic pain and the suffering and stress of illness.’ ER
Influential thinkers Five psychologists and a cognitive neuroscientist have been named in the top 20 most influential thinkers of 2014 by HR magazine. At the top of the list, for inspiring leaders in people strategy, was Professor Sir Cary Cooper (Lancaster University Management School). Professor Cooper told us he was overwhelmed at being named The Most Influential HR Thinker in 2014 by the leading HR directors in the UK. He added: ‘It surprised me, given that I work in the field of health and well-being in the workplace, which until recently has not been a high priority issue for HR. My getting this award, given the research work I do, means that health and wellbeing among employees in the UK’s biggest companies and public sector bodies has now come of age. Personally, it also means that the work of psychologists like myself is perceived by senior people at the coal face of UK plc, as making a contribution to human resource
management and ultimately to British industry.’ Third in the ranking was Professor Rob Briner (School of Management, University of Bath) for his research into well-being, emotions, stress, ethnicity, the psychological contract, work absence, motivation and everyday work behaviour. He runs training courses about how HR managers can practise in a more evidencebased way through using evidence that is relevant to organisational problems and decisions. Briner has also received the BPS Division of Occupational Psychology Academic Contribution to Practice Award, and will be giving a keynote talk in Glasgow at the Division of Occupational Psychology conference in January entitled ‘Why isn’t organizational psychology more evidence-based? Why does it matter and what can we do about it?. He told The Psychologist: ‘Having never really received any awards or honours of this kind before
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it was quite a surprise to several in such a short space of time. These awards were recognition for my work on evidencebased practice, which I’ve been banging on about for almost 20 years. I’m hoping they reflect a growing interest in the idea. It seems to me that as psychologists or HR practitioners, unless we start to take the critical use of different forms of evidence more seriously in our work, then what we do will just become increasingly ineffective and less and less relevant.’ Other psychology entrants on the list included Professor Adrian Furnham (University College London) at number 5, Professor Michael West (Lancaster University Management School and The King’s Fund) at 11, Professor Nigel Nicholson (London Business School), who originally trained in psychology, at 17, and Dr Geoff Bird, a research fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (University College London), at number 19. ER
From the trenches to the present day Ella Rhodes reports from a one-day symposium ‘Stories of Psychology: War and Its Aftermath’ held on 8 October. In the centenary year of the start of the First World War, the fourth annual Stories of Psychology symposium explored the role of psychologists during and after war, the effects of warfare on children and the emergence of a Jungian theory of inner and external conflict. The event, organised by the BPS History of Psychology Centre, was held at the University of London’s Senate House and convened by Dr Alan Collins (University of Lancaster). It opened with a talk from military psychologist, and the Society’s President Elect, Jamie Hacker Hughes (Anglia Ruskin University.) Professor Hacker Hughes tracked the 99 years of psychologists’ involvement with the military since the start of the First World War. He began with Charles Myers, a medical doctor who trained at Barts and Cambridge and took part in the famous Torres Straits expedition. He, among others such as William Halse Rivers, was at the forefront of treating shell shock during the war. Professor Hacker Hughes then went on to discuss how psychologists have been involved with the military since 1914. He outlined the work of War Office Selection Boards where psychologists collaborated with military officers and psychiatrists in the selection of officer candidates. This increased role of psychologists in the military, however, did not sit well with some in the services. Even Winston Churchill himself said of their work: ‘It is very wrong to disturb large numbers of healthy, normal men and women by asking the kind of odd questions in which the Psychiatrists specialize.’ Later on, towards the Second World War, Professor Hacker Hughes said, psychologists were also involved in the ergonomic design of control panels in planes, and had a greater involvement in the selection and testing of candidates for the armed forces. In 1941 the War Office set up the Army’s Directorate of Service Personnel which included 19 psychologists, all of whom were uniformed officers, who were involved in designing tests for general candidates as well as more specific roles. In more recent times, Professor Hacker Hughes pointed out that he was responsible for the creation of a new clinical psychologist cadre within the Royal Army Medical Corps, leading to the recruitment of the Army's first uniformed clinical
Professor Edgar Jones – the experiences of shell shock set in place an optimism that psychological disorders could be cured by psychological means
psychologist, Captain Duncan Precious, who was in fact among the delegates to the symposium. Next, Professor Edgar Jones (Institute of Psychiatry) outlined evidence that the huge numbers of shell shock victims during World War I changed the landscape of mental health and the treatment of psychological distress – but that these effects soon dissipated following the end of the war. Professor Jones said that before the start of the war psychiatry was dominated by the asylum system, and for the few psychologists who were working in British universities at the outbreak of war in 1914, explaining psychological distress was not their major interest, instead they were much more concerned with developing experimental investigations using measures such as reaction time. During the war, Professor Jones said, very large numbers of men recruited to combat were exposed to the dangers of frontline warfare, and what was soon termed ‘shell shock’ began to emerge, which led to an increased focus on treatment. Professor Jones’ research has revealed that there were peaks of shellshock cases following major battles, but
there were also peaks when individuals had served for 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. Professor Jones said that this appeared to indicate that soldiers used shell shock as a way to negotiate being moved away from the front line at times when they might reasonably have felt they had done their bit. When shell shock began to emerge, those few psychologists working in British universities, many of whom were medically qualified, were asked to turn their attention to the issue. Confronted with shell shock as a major and distressing problem, these psychologists began to develop their ideas about psychological explanations of mental breakdown. The Maudsley Hospital, for example, opened in 1916, where physician and psychologist William Brown was the first resident medical officer. Professor Jones said: ‘He wanted to create a place where people wanted to get better, quite the opposite of an asylum.’ Overall, the experiences of shell shock set in place an optimism that psychological disorders could be cured by psychological means. Some further progress was made after the end of the war. Cassel Hospital was
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FUNDING NEWS individual conflicts, some of which he believed arose from the shared collective unconscious, could war be avoided. This was consistent with his idea that the transformation of individual was necessary for the transformation of the collective and, even more ambitiously, that ultimately psychotherapy could hold the solution to what was seen as the decline of the West and the ills of modernity. The final speaker, Historian and sociologist Professor Michael Roper (University of Essex), is currently conducting interviews with people who were born between the First and Second World Wars and had fathers who had served in the military, to discover the impact of war on families, children and relationships. While the impact of the war on combatants has been much researched, the impact of the war on the children and families of war veterans has been comparatively neglected. Yet as Professor Roper’s interviews show, the war did have a lasting impact on the children of veterans. Although he is yet to carry out systematic analysis on his interviews, Professor Roper presented some of his moving findings from children whose fathers were injured during in the First World War. ‘Many [of the interviewees] felt they grew up without paternal presence, they had fathers but had not been fathered,’ he said. Professor Roper shared some of the interviews he had conducted, in one the interviewee spoke of having missed out due to having a father who had been disabled during the war, the interviewee said: ‘Now, I had a father, but could never be taken as a father in the full sense of the word … engaging. There was nobody to say, you know, “Come along, I’ll show you how to fish”, you know, “Let’s go and have a kick about with the football”.’ Professor Roper also pointed out how some of the interviewees and their families showed the stiff-upper-lip attitude that was seemingly typical in the interwar period, one of his interviewees said, following the death of her brother, she had great difficulty showing her emotion, she said: ‘I have great difficulty in crying, I always have had. As a kid I had. But I can remember waking up next morning, every morning for ages after, [her brother died] and my cheeks were stiff with salt.’ Professor Roper added:
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The Experimental Psychology Society invites applications for its Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Workshops sponsorship scheme. Workshops would be designed to bring together postgraduate students and/or junior postdoctoral researchers who are working on a particular topic or would like to learn about a particular technique. Workshops would be expected to take place over one or two days and be organised by a senior researcher who need not be a member of the EPS. Applications should provide an outline of the topic area, proposed format and a proposed budget and be submitted to the Honorary Secretary at least six months before the intended date. I tinyurl.com/plpe6m9
opened which was designed to take the lessons learned during the war and apply it to the general public. But by the 1920s the expected breakthroughs in treatment had not arrived and there was no sustained practical change. Professor Jones concluded that though ‘a horrific price was paid in terms of casualties’, it sadly did not secure immediate long-term changes to mainstream clinical practice. During the lunch interval delegates had the chance to see an exhibition of books about psychology and the First World War from Senate House library’s historical collections. Senate House Library, where the BPS official library resides, also facilitated today’s symposium. After lunch, Andrea von Hohenthal (University of Freiburg) presented some initial findings from her doctoral research into the differences in the development of psychology and the treatment of shell shock in Germany and England during the First World War. These differences, she said, included the diagnosis of what the British called shell shock, which in Germany was known as war hysteria. Whereas British soldiers were often treated near the front lines, German soldiers were more often sent home to recuperate, where medical services in many areas of Germany were better organised for dealing with a large number of shell-shocked soldiers. She also pointed that though a variety of treatments were employed in both Britain and Germany, including psychoanalysis and electric currents, psychotherapy was more frequently used by British psychologists to treat shell-shock victims than their counterparts in Germany. Next up, Professor Sonu Shamdasani (University College London) looked into Jung’s premonitions of war, just before the outbreak of the First World War, and how these helped him to develop ideas into collective and individual conflict. Professor Shamdasani outlined several premonitions Jung experienced. In the first he saw a flood of red engulfing Germany, France and the rest of Europe. Jung feared he was losing his mind and so began on a long period of self-reflection and investigation. When war broke out, Jung concluded that he was not insane, but his waking dreams or visions were in response to the wider collective subconscious. Jung saw war as largely a symptom of unresolved individual conflicts. Only by resolving
The Wellcome Trust invites applications for its Research Training Fellowships, which are open to clinical psychology graduates, amongst other disciplines, who wish to develop a long-term career in academic medicine. Applications are encouraged from individuals who wish to undertake training in an appropriate unit or clinical research facility towards a PhD or MD qualification. Fellowships are normally for two to three years and cover research expenses and a salary. Applications are considered three times a year and the next full application deadline is 1 December 2014. I tinyurl.com/2u8aq8r
For BPS awards and grant schemes, see www.bps.org.uk/awards&grants Funding bodies should e-mail news to Emma Smith on email@example.com for possible inclusion
‘The emotional code of interwar Britain was very different. Emotional strength was a hallmark of interwar culture.’ The Stories of Psychology symposium has become a fixture in the BPS calendar and this year’s event was extremely well attended by an appreciative audience of more than 100 people. Peter DillonHooper, who manages the History of Psychology Centre and organised the event said: ‘It was really pleasing to see a hall full of people, psychologists and non-psychologists, engaging with some of the fascinating stories that psychology has to tell. It is our mission to continue to bring the sometimes neglected history of the discipline to the attention of as wide an audience as possible. So, we’ll be back next year with a fifth symposium.’
A less violent world? Psychologist and author Steven Pinker rounded off a three-day conference from the World Health Organization and the University of Cambridge, which invited eminent researchers to discuss whether levels of homicide and other forms of violence could be reduced by 50 per cent in 30 years. Professor Pinker described this goal as ‘completely attainable’. In a talk, entitled ‘The Past, The Present and The Future of Violence’, Pinker presented ideas from his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature, and gave evidence that, despite recent conflicts, human beings are living in our most peaceful time. Taking the long view across a history of human violence from Biblical times to present day, Pinker said the global fall in homicide rates in the last few decades is just one of many declines in violence across the globe. Capital punishment, torture, war, rape and slavery are also less common. With particular emphasis on war, Pinker looked at the rate of death from armed conflict, which has remained relatively constant since its decline following the Second World War. There has been a decline, he said, in the rate of war between large powers, such as the US and Russia. He said: ‘There has been zero wars between great powers and zero wars between Western European countries, which, historically, is unusual.’ The New Peace, as Pinker calls it, also includes fewer and shorter civil wars since 1990. He said: ‘Recent civil wars are less deadly than traditional interstate wars. There’s not been a linear decline but a rollercoaster whose trajectory is unmistakably downward.’ He also pointed to statistics that show the rate of rape in the US has fallen since its peak in the early 1970s and domestic violence has also plunged. What has caused this decline? Pinker said there is likely an environmental cause because humans are hard-wired towards violence: ‘There’s evidence that we harbour violent impulses. We see violence in young children. The most violent age is two – but we don’t categorise that as violence… Older children take tremendous pleasure in vicarious violence.’ Pinker then spoke of the various types of violence and the brain systems that underlie them, as well as the brain systems we have for violence inhibition, which he describes as the better angels of our nature, one of which is self-control: ‘Seventy-five
per cent of men have homicidal fantasies, yet far fewer act out those fantasies,’ he said. Other violence inhibition mechanisms include empathy, and morality, although, Pinker said, ‘the world has far too much morality. It can increase violence. If you were to tally up all the violent deaths from moral motives and compare them to instrumental motives, they would be stacked in favour of the moral.’ He listed religious revolutionary wars, blasphemy, treatment of heretics and lynchings as examples. He added: ‘Human moral sense can reduce violence when it is centred on the prevention of harm.’ Professor Pinker also confronted sceptics who had suggested that since the publication of his book in 2011, the levels of violence may have started to rise again. He presented statistics that suggested they were generally continuing to fall globally. Pinker also made predictions about the future of violence, but added these should be taken with a pinch of salt. He said: ‘Some forms of violence, once abolished stay abolished.’ And gave examples including human sacrifice, legal slavery and public torture, adding: ‘Are we going to see a resurgence of breaking people on the wheel? I don’t think so.’ On that basis, Pinker argued, the rate of homicide is likely to continue to fall in functioning states. Turning to the proclaimed desire seen in many societies for a reduction in violence against women, Pinker said: ‘There have been a number of aspirational statements made… you might write that off but, in fact, a reasonable case can be made for aspirational declarations.’ He said the likelihood of these statements becoming a reality can be surprisingly good. Pinker did outline some types of violence that might not decline in the near future, including civil wars, violent resistance movements and human rights in the Islamic world. He added: ‘By most qualitative measures much of the Islamic world seems to be sitting out the decline in violence and it’s hard to say that will change soon.’ In summary, he concluded: ‘Overall there’s a strong, realistic, non-romantic case for the possibility of future violence reduction.’ ER I For our ‘One on one’ with Steven Pinker from 2008, see tinyurl.com/pkp4d5u
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A duty of care to be vocal Claudia Hallett and Simon Riches (DClinPsy trainees at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience) report on Professor Tanya Byron’s visit ‘Clinical psychologists have a duty of care to be vocal in the media’, was the inspiring message left buzzing in the ears of DClinPsy trainees at the IoPPN after a group discussion with Professor Tanya Byron on her recently published work of ‘literary non-fiction’, The Skeleton Cupboard. A selection of trainees across all three cohorts attended the lively session in which Byron repeatedly emphasised the importance of clinical psychologists,
including trainees, speaking out about mental health in the mainstream media. Specifically, she encouraged trainees to respond to inaccuracies about mental health in newspapers, magazines and radio programmes and to share comments on behalf of the profession. The book itself describes Byron’s time as a trainee clinical psychologist, with stories of the clients she worked with, teams she was part of, and mistakes she made. Responding to
questions also raised in John Marzillier’s review of The Skeleton Cupboard (The Psychologist, September 2014) – about the genuineness of the clinical cases and notable omissions from the experience of clinical training – Byron explained that concerns with confidentiality motivated her to describe cases that are predominantly fictional but based on amalgamations (or ‘clinical constructs’) of clients from across her placements; and revealed that her decision to condense several
supervisors into one and omit her fellow trainees were literary devices designed to provide a clearer narrative. Although this might have seemed the ideal audience, Byron claimed that she had not written the book for psychologists. Her purpose had been to show the general public how valuable psychological therapies can be in helping people make sense of their experiences, as well as wanting to reveal her own vulnerability and uncertainties as a trainee.
Mind blindness – a world of difference Typically developing children show theory of mind, an ability to track what others are thinking, but children with autism struggle with this intuitive and automatic ability. This mind blindness, Professor Happé argued in a talk organised by the BPS and British Academy, may explain some of the social and communication difficulties of autism: why lying doesn’t come naturally, and jokes and irony are taken literally. Professor Happé said the experimental work proving that children with autism lack this mind-reading ability is also reflected in their everyday behaviour. Although there has been much debate over this mentalising theory, Professor Happé said it had been useful: ‘If you explain to a teacher in a mainstream school that a pupil who is bright is not being cheeky but is genuinely having difficulty reading their minds, then it often makes the world of difference.’ Theory of mind, Professor Happé argued, acts as a ‘gatekeeper’ that opens the way to learning and acquiring skills. She said neurotypical children learn through social interaction and orient towards communicative gestures and are interested in what others are interested in. But children with autism tend to do what they find interesting, and therefore it is
difficult to acquire knowledge and skills through socially mediated routes. Happé also discussed the effects on language acquisition, pointing out that in neurotypical children, word-learning is extremely socially sophisticated, but it appears young children with autism don’t pick up language in the same way, as reflected in mis-mappings and words gained and then lost. Professor Happé also outlined evidence, collected with Dave Williams, that could suggest that mindblindness extends to a person’s awareness of their own thoughts, perceptions With Paul Bloom and Uta Frith, she looked at the interesting way young children label their scribbled drawings ‘Mummy’ or ‘doggy’. Presumably, Professor Happé said, what they’re labelling is their
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intention to draw a particular thing. In an experiment children with autism were asked to draw one of four identical planes, which differed only in colour, using a black pencil. They were asked afterwards which plane they had drawn, which they found very difficult: to remember which plane they intended to draw they need to reflect on their mental state at the time of drawing. Professor Happé said: ‘Many people with autism are very good at drawing and have a very exact and naturalistic style. And I wonder if, perhaps, that has something to do with this lack of intention or marking of your representation. When a little child draws a squiggle and says it’s Mummy, then it is Mummy because your drawing is what you intend it to be. But artists with autism may not have that intentional marking of their drawings. All they have to tell them that a drawing is a drawing of Mummy is its physical resemblance to Mummy.’ Happé concluded by pointing out that mind-reading isn’t everything in autism: ‘I think autism is a composite of neurocognitive features… We have three symptoms but probably not one cause. Theory of mind is part of the puzzle but only part. Similarly mind-reading isn’t all of social cognition.’ ER I See last month’s issue, or tinyurl.com/happe1014, for an interview with Professor Happé
How do male scientists balance the demands of work and family? Academia remains heavily gendered, thanks in part to historical stereotypes asserting that men are suited to solving complex problems and ready to put ‘great works’ over other concerns such as community or family. Psychology and sociology have shown how this disadvantages women working in these fields, particularly if they wish to have children. A new study led by Sarah Damaske of Pennsylvania State University takes a different approach, looking at what this world is like for men. From the 73 male scientists interviewed, four groupings emerged. A minority (15 per cent) indicated they saw a fundamental incompatibility between raising a family and success in science, and as a consequence intended to forgo childrearing entirely. A second group (30 per cent) saw no such incompatibility… as long as you have a wife to raise the kids full-time. These ‘Traditional Breadwinners’ were slightly older (average age 47) and more likely to be full professors. They were quick to accept that the family duties performed by their wives were key to their own career success. Some recognised their fortune and the compromises their partners made, whereas others saw the spheres of science and family as separate and inevitably gendered. To the question ‘Do you think that having children then is difficult to manage with being a scientist?’, one responded ‘No, absolutely not. That’s why you have a wife.’ But norms about working and being a father are changing, with more men wanting a greater role at home and more career opportunities for their partners. This study suggests that while some male scientists are prepared to follow through on this with action, the egalitarian commitment of others is more theoretical. This latter group (22 per cent) are ‘Neotraditionalists’: they are opposed to the idea that their working partners ought to devote themselves only to childcare, but when tensions arose between work and home life, these men presumed that their own (male) career ought to come first. They often took pains to distance themselves from having caused these tensions. One characterised his wife facing a career break during the early years of childrearing as ‘her In Work and Occupations issue’. Another stated that ‘there’s more expected of the women in terms of family life’, and a third that women were the ones ‘burdened’ with childcare. This fatalism was a common theme of the Neotraditionalists: the situation is unfair, but what are you going to do? How about reducing your own work activities to accommodate the career of your female partner? This was the strategy taken by the final group, the ‘Egalitarian Partners’. These men (33 per cent of the sample) were likely to be together with another scientist, and saw each career track as equally important. In their interviews, they spoke of concessions made by both sides, and the recognition that other colleagues were outpacing them. Their language also betrayed awareness that their decisions were not in line with their gendered role: one qualified his decisions by saying ‘I’m trying to be a sensitive new age guy’. Data exists that suggests fathers are not expected by most managers to actually use organisational work–family policies such as crèches or shorter work-time; the true egalitarians are going against the grain, or even ‘acting female’ by placing family as equal to or more important than their devotion to the Big Questions. Without greater societal efforts to overhaul institutional sexism, these challenges may remain for the Egalitarians. Non-child-rearing men are more likely to reach positions of power thanks to the extra time and energy they can devote to their work, and they may see less cause to introduce systems or drive cultural change to support those men who want to be an active partner in the home, however large their number may be at entry level. As a consequence, Damaske concludes, ‘the academic science pipeline may begin to leak young men as well as young women, increasing the overall loss of talent in academic science’. AF
Students learn better when they think they’re going to have to teach the material In Memory and Cognition Researchers say they’ve uncovered a simple technique that improves students' memory for passages of text. All that’s required is to tell the students that they’re going to have to teach the material to someone else. Fifty-six undergrads were split into two groups. One group were told that they had 10 minutes to study a 1500-word passage about fictional depictions of the Charge of The Light Brigade, and that they would be tested on it afterwards. The other group were similarly given 10 minutes to study the text, but they were told that afterwards they would have to teach the content to another student. Neither group was allowed to take notes. In fact, 25 minutes after the study period was over, both groups were tested on the passage. Specifically they had to recall as much information as possible from the article, and then they faced specific questions about the content. The students who thought they were going to teach the material recalled more facts from the text, and they did so more quickly. They showed a specific advantage for the main points in the text, and their recall was also better organised, tending to reflect the structure of the original text. A second study was similar but this time two groups of students studied an article about neurobiology and the test that followed took the form of
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The mental abilities of Scrabble and crossword champions In Applied Cognitive Psychology
‘fill in the blank’ questions based on verbatim quotes from the article. This time the students who thought they were going to have to teach the article showed a slight advantage for recalling the main points, although they didn’t recall more information overall. John Nestojko and his colleagues acknowledge that more research is needed to confirm and expand on these results (especially given the more equivocal second study), but they said their findings hint at a simple strategy for improving students’ learning. They think that cultivating in learners the expectation of having to teach the material leads them to adopt strategies ‘such as organising and weighing the importance of different concepts in the to-betaught material, focusing on main points, and thinking about how information fits together’ that are known to boost memory performance. In a school situation it probably wouldn't be practical for every student to go through the process of teaching learned material, but the expectation of having to teach the material could easily be fostered by announcing that one or more randomly chosen students will play the teaching role. ‘We hope the present findings encourage future researchers to discover other such potentially easy-toimplement ways of leading students to adopt more effective learning strategies,’ the researchers said. CJ
Every year, hundreds of word lovers arrive from across the US to compete in the American Crossword Puzzle tournament. They solve clues (e.g. ‘Caught some Z’s’) and place the answers (e.g. ‘slept’) in a grid. Meanwhile, a separate group of wordsmiths gather regularly to compete at Scrabble, forming words out of letter tiles and finding a suitable place for them on the board. Both sets of players have exceptional abilities, but how exactly do they differ from each other and from non-players of matched academic ability? Some answers are provided by Michael Toma and his colleagues, who have performed the first detailed comparison of the mental skills of the most elite crossword and Scrabble players in the US. Previous studies on gaming expertise have mostly involved chess players, so this is a refreshing new research angle. Toma’s team recruited 26 elite Scrabble players (in the top 2 per cent of competitive players, on average; 20 men) and 31 elite crossword players (in the top 7 per cent, on average; 22 men) to complete several tests of working memory – the kind of memory that we use to juggle and use information over short timescales. For example, there was a visuospatial task that involved judging whether images were symmetrical, while also remembering highlighted locations in a series of grids that always appeared after each
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symmetry image. Another challenge was the reading span task (a test of verbal working memory), which involved judging the grammatical sense of sentences, while also remembering the order of individual letters that were flashed on-screen after each grammatical challenge. The researchers anticipated that the Scrabble players would outperform the crossworders on visuospatial working memory, whereas they thought the crossword players might be superior on verbal working memory. These predictions were based on the contrasting skills demanded by the two games. Scrabble players often spend hours learning lists of words that are legal in the game, but unlike crossword players, they don’t need to know their meaning. In fact many Scrabble players admit to not knowing the meaning of many of the words they play. On the other hand, Scrabble players need skills to rearrange letters and to find a place for their words on the board (a visuospatial skill), whereas crossword players do not need these skills so much because the grid is prearranged for them. The researchers actually uncovered no group differences on any of the measures of visuospatial and verbal working memory. However, in line with predictions, the crossword competitors outperformed the Scrabble players on an analogies-based word task – identifying a pair of words that have the same relation to each
other as a target pair – and the crossworders also had higher (self-reported) verbal SAT scores than the Scrabble players (SAT is a standardised school test used in the US). The two groups also differed drastically in the most important strategies they said they used during game play – for instance, mental flexibility was far more important for crossworders, whereas anagramming was important for Scrabble players but not mentioned by crossworders. Both expert groups far outperformed a control group of high-achieving students on all measures of verbal and visuospatial working memory. This was despite the fact the students had similar verbal SAT levels to the expert players. So it seems the elite players of both games have highly superior working memory relative to controls, but this enhancement is not tailored to their different games. Toma and his team said that by looking beyond chess and studying experts in cognitively demanding verbal games, their research ‘helps to build a more general understanding of the cognitive mechanisms that underlie elite performance’. From a theoretical perspective, their finding of no working memory differences between Scrabble and crossword competitors is supportive of a domain-general account of working memory – a single mechanism that fulfils the processing of verbal and visuospatial information. CJ
Little Albert – one of the most famous research participants in psychology’s history, but who was he? In Teaching of Psychology In 1920, in what would become one of the most infamous and controversial studies in psychology, a pair of researchers at Johns Hopkins University taught a baby boy to fear a white rat. For decades, the true identity and subsequent fate of this poor infant, nicknamed ‘Little Albert’, has remained a mystery. But recently this has changed, thanks to the tireless detective work of two independent groups of scholars. Now there are competing proposals for who Little Albert was and what became of him. Which group is correct – the one led by Hall Beck at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, or the other led by Russell Powell at MacEwan University in Alberta?
These developments are so new they have yet to be fully documented in any textbooks. Fortunately, Richard Griggs at the University of Florida has written an accessible outline of the evidence unearthed by each group. His overview will be published in Teaching of Psychology in January 2015, but the Research Digest has been granted an early view. The starting point for both groups of academics-cumdetectives was that Little Albert is known to have been the son of a wet nurse at Johns Hopkins. Hall Beck and his colleagues identified three wet nurses on the campus in that era, and they found that just one of them had a child at the right time to have been Little Albert.
LINK FEAST What Life Is Like When You Swear You’re Dead An interview with Esmé Weijun Wang who used to think she was dead when she wasn't, a rare condition known as Cotard’s delusion. tinyurl.com/lujg2fj Vietnam’s Neuroscientific Legacy The amazing story of all we’ve learned about the brain from the veterans who suffered head injuries during the Vietnam War. tinyurl.com/lnu7fj7 Are Dolphins Cleverer Than Dogs? Justin Gregg for the BBC concludes this is really the wrong question. tinyurl.com/lt22tmh At 24, Woman Discovers She Was Born Without a Cerebellum Neurosurgeons in China have reported the case of a young woman who went to hospital complaining of dizziness only to discover that she'd been born without a cerebellum. tinyurl.com/k35kuzq Runs in the Family ‘Cricketing dynasties seem to imply that talent is genetic,’ writes David Papineau at Aeon Magazine. ‘Yet the evidence from other sports queers the pitch.’ tinyurl.com/o25eckd ‘Cyranoids’: Stanley Milgram’s Creepiest Experiment Milgram is most famous for his obedience experiments, but Neuroskeptic reports on new research into another of Milgram's ideas – that our speech can be fed to us by someone else (so we become a Cyranoid) without anyone realising anything is amiss. tinyurl.com/pnqru4j
This was Arvilla Merritte, who named her son Douglas. Further supporting their case, Beck’s group found a portrait of Douglas and their analysis suggested he looked similar to the photographs and video of Little Albert and could well be the same child (see tinyurl.com/beck0511). The Merritte line of inquiry was further supported, although controversially so, when a clinical psychologist Alan Fridlund and his colleagues analysed footage of Little Albert and deemed that he was neurologically impaired. If true, this would fit with the finding that Douglas Merritte’s medical records show he had hydrocephalus (‘water on the brain’). Of course this would also mean that the Little Albert study was even more unethical than previously realised. Perhaps the most glaring shortcoming of the Merritte theory is why the original researchers John Watson and Rosalie Rayner called the baby Albert if his true name was Douglas Merritte. Enter the rival detective camp headed by Russell Powell. Their searches revealed that in fact another of the Johns Hopkins’ wet nurses had given birth to a son at the right time to have been Little Albert. This child was William A. Barger, although he was recorded in his medical file as Albert Barger. Of course, this
fits the nickname Little Albert (and in fact, in their writings, Watson and Rayner referred to the child as ‘Albert B’). Also supporting the William Barger story, Powell and his team found notes on Barger’s weight, which closely match the weight of Little Albert as reported by Watson and Rayner. This also ties in with the fact that Little Albert looks healthily chubby in the videos (Merritte, by contrast, was much lighter). Meanwhile, other experts have criticised the idea of diagnosing Little Albert as neurologically impaired based on a few brief video clips, further tilting the picture in favour of the Barger interpretation. Indeed, summing the evidence for each side, Griggs decides in favour of Powell’s camp. ‘Applying Occam’s razor to this situation would indicate that Albert Barger is far more likely to have been Little Albert,’ he writes. What do the two accounts mean for the fate of Little Albert? If he was Douglas Merritte, then the story is a sad one – the boy died at age six of hydrocephalus. In contrast, if Little Albert was William Barger, he in fact lived a long life, dying in 2007 at the age of 87. His niece recalls that he had a mild dislike of animals. Was this due to his stint as an infant research participant? We’ll probably never know. CJ
The material in this section is taken from the Society’s Research Digest blog at www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog, and is written by its editor Dr Christian Jarrett and contributor Dr Alex Fradera. Visit the blog for full coverage including references and links, additional current reports, an archive, comment and more. Subscribe to the fortnightly email, friend, follow and more via www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog
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DIGEST DIGESTED Full reports are available at www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog How easily new students make friends is influenced in part by the design of their halls of residence. Lounges and shared toilet facilities help foster chance encounters, strengthening relationships and improving student well-being. British Journal of Social Psychology
Pupils benefit from praise, but should teachers give it publicly or privately? In the Journal of School Psychology There’s a best practice guide for teachers, produced by the Association of School Psychologists in the US, stating that praise is best given to pupils in private. This advice is not based on experimental research – there hasn’t been any – but on surveys of student preferences, and on the rationale that pupils could be embarrassed by receiving praise in public. Now, in the first study of its kind, John Blaze and his colleagues have systematically compared the effect of public and private praise (also known as ‘loud’ and ‘quiet’ praise) on classroom behaviour. They found that praise had a dramatic beneficial effect on pupils’ behaviour, and it didn’t matter whether the praise was private or public. The research was conducted at four high-school public classrooms in rural southeastern United States (the equivalent to state schools in the UK). The classes were mixed-sex, with a mixture of mostly Caucasian and African American pupils, with between 16 and 25 pupils in each class. The children were aged 14 to 16. Three of the teachers were teaching English, the other taught Transition to Algebra. The teachers were given training in appropriate praise, which must be contingent on good behaviour, make clear to the pupil why they are being praised, be immediate and effort-based. During the test sessions of teaching, the
teachers carried a buzzer on their belt that prompted them, once every two minutes, to deliver praise to one of their pupils, either loudly so the whole class could hear (in the loud condition) or discreetly, by a whisper in the ear or pat on the shoulder, so that hopefully only the child knew they were being praised (in the quiet condition). For comparison, there were also baseline sessions in which the teachers simply carried out their teaching in their usual style. Trained observers stationed for 20-minute sessions in the classrooms monitored the teachers’ praise-giving and the behaviour of the pupils across the different conditions. They found that frequent praise increased pupils’ on-task behaviours, such as reading or listening to the teacher, by 31 per cent compared with baseline, and this improvement didn’t vary according to whether the praise was private or public. Frequent praise of either manner also reduced naughty behaviours by nearly 20 per cent. Blaze and his team said that the debate over praise will likely continue, but they stated their results are clear: ‘both loud and quiet forms of praise are effective tools that can have dramatic effects at the secondary level’. A weakness of the study is that the researchers didn’t monitor the teachers’ use of reprimands, which likely reduced as they spent more time delivering praise. CJ
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After five days at a technology-free summer camp, 11-year-olds showed more improvement at reading emotions in faces than their peers who stayed at school and kept up their usual texting and video-gaming. Computers in Human Behaviour School children aged 11 to 12 performed better on a maths test when they were given a minute at the start to skim through all the questions. The researchers think this simple strategy reduces anxiety by activating relevant ‘schemas’ in the children’s minds. Applied Cognitive Psychology Eye contact with another person makes us more aware of our own body. After participants looked at pictures of faces that appeared to be making eye contact, they were more accurate at judging their own physiological reaction to positive and negative images. Cognition People’s belief in free will is not threatened by neuroscience findings that show non-conscious neural activity precedes conscious decisions. US student participants still believed a fictional woman had free will when her every decision was anticipated by neuroscientists monitoring her brain activity. Cognition Taking LSD leaves people more open to suggestion. This was especially the case for participants scoring high on trait conscientiousness. Researchers say the finding opens up the possibility of using LSD in contexts where hypnosis has proven effective, such as pain control. Psychopharmacology Watching TV could be a great way to relax if only we forgive ourselves for the downtime. Participants who felt more depleted after work tended to experience more guilt about watching TV or gaming in the evening, and the more guilt they experienced, the less likely they were to say that they felt rejuvenated afterwards. Journal of Communication
Camps, conflict and collectivism Sixty years after the Robbers Cave study, Stephen Reicher and S. Alexander Haslam introduce an appreciation of a Sherif for today and for tomorrow
Dost-Gözkan, A. & Sönmez Keith, D. (Eds.) (2015). Norms, group conflict, and social change: Rediscovering Muzafer Sherif’ s psychology. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. Sherif, M. & Sherif, C.W. (1969). Social psychology. New York: Harper & Row. www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ hindsight/inside-robbers-cave/ 4515060
Is conflict between groups inevitable?
Sixty years ago, Muzafer Sherif conducted his Robbers Cave Boys’ Camp study – one of the most significant psychological experiments ever conducted. The collection of articles in this special feature examine why those studies – and Sherif’s larger body of work – remain of enduring significance. To begin, we provide an overview of the conceptual, methodological and societal implications of Sherif’s work. Three further articles then address his life and how it affected his ideas; the experience of the boys in the camps; and the importance of the studies in understanding the collective dimension of behaviour.
If you wanted to demonstrate the impact of intergroup relations on behaviour, and you had unlimited resources, what sort of study would you design?
Geras, N. (1983). Marx and human nature. London: Verso. Reicher, S.D. & Stott, C. (2011). Mad mobs and Englishmen: Myths and realities of the 2011 riots. London: Robinson. Sherif, M. (1977). Crisis in social psychology. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3, 368–382. Sherif, M. & Sherif, C.W. (1969). Social psychology. New York: Harper & Row.
ot long ago, we suggested a feature to the editor of The Psychologist called ‘Desert Island Texts’, in which an invitee would select the top books and papers they would take to the mythical island. Well, here is a variant: ‘Desert Island Quotes’. If we were choosing, then a quote of Muzafer Sherif and his wife Carolyn would definitely be on our list, perhaps at the top. The relevant passage relates to perhaps the most famous phase of Sherif’s most famous work – the 1954 Robbers Cave Boys’ Camp Study. In this study boys were brought from their homes to the camp in Oklahoma. After a period of getting to know each other they were separated into two groups that then took part in a series of competitive games. The Sherifs narrate how this led to a series of ‘spontaneous frustrations’ arising from the clash between groups. They describe how suspicion and hostility grew between the groups. They meticulously document the rise of negative stereotypes and biased judgements against the other group. They provide graphic accounts of all the subtle and less subtle forms of conflict that developed: each group stole and vandalised the property of the other, at meal times the groups used food as a weapon to hurl at each other (in what they referred to as ‘garbage wars’), and when the member of one group accidentally brushed against a member of the other he was admonished for having put ‘dirt’ on his clothes. The Sherifs sum all this up by writing:
If an outside observer had entered the situation after the conflict began… he could only have concluded on the basis of their behaviour that these boys (who were the ‘cream of the crop’ in their communities) were either disturbed, vicious or wicked youngsters (Sherif & Sherif, 1969, p.254).
This quote encapsulates for us why the work of the Sherifs, and of Muzafer in particular, is of such importance today, why it is worthy of reconsideration, and hence why we were motivated to produce this special feature on Sherif 60 years on
from Robbers Cave. For, of course, the import of these words is that the observer would be wrong in attributing violence to the violent nature of the individuals involved. What is more, this error derives from the spatial and temporal positioning of the observer: as an outsider to the process who only apprehends it after the conflict began. Such an observer would not have seen the process of conflict develop over time, would not have seen how changes in structural context wrought psychological changes in the perceptions, feelings and actions of the boys, and therefore could only relate conflict to what was currently before his or her eyes – the boys themselves. Such positioning is typical of the way in which we generally come across violence in our society – and hence of the explanations that predominate. We see a riot, because it is sufficiently dramatic to appear on our screens. But we don’t see the long, slow processes and the nature of the interactions that led up to it. We therefore easily conclude that those involved are inherently bad people, gang members, products of dysfunctional families, morally incapable, disturbed, vicious or otherwise wicked in some way. This, for example, is seen clearly in political reaction to the 2011 English riots (see Reicher & Stott, 2011; and tinyurl.com/mo6rgbx). Sherif’s genius was to produce research that repositioned us as observers. He brings time back into the process. He allows us to see events unfold and to see how initially undisturbed, gentle and good people can be led into conflict. By creating and manipulating immersive social worlds, he demonstrates the remarkable power of context in creating who we are and what we do. As a result, our reaction to the studies is not to say ‘what horrible people, we must target them’, but rather ‘what a horrible world, it must be changed’. In this way, our own moral and political sensibilities are transformed. More broadly, Sherif’s work is important to us in at least four interlinked ways. First, at a conceptual level, he guides us towards seeing what Michael Platow and John Hunter (later in this issue) term the ‘necessarily collectivistic’ nature of human psychology. Second, at a methodological level, he shows the importance of conducting research that can apprehend the impact of the social world. Third, at a political and moral level, he demonstrates the inescapable interconnections between our psychological models of social issues and our sense of how to respond to those issues. As Aysel Kayaog˘lu and her
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colleagues reveal in their contribution to this special feature, this objective was at the root of Sherif’s endeavours from the start to the end of his career. There is a fourth point, however, which relates to the fact that in revisiting Sherif our aim is not only to look backwards but also to find ways of moving forward. Like any body of research, Sherif’s was not flawless and does not provide a final word. Rather, looking closely at what he did (as Gina THE CENTER FOR THE HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF AKRON
Sherif found plausible and effective ways of varying the structure of social worlds
Perry does in her article) reveals unresolved issues and suggests new avenues to explore. Let us briefly consider each of these four points in turn.
Conceptual impact In a paper written in 1977, towards the very end of his career, Sherif confronted the seemingly perennial crisis of confidence in social psychology. The paper could have been written today and deserves to be read by us all. In it, he demolishes the notion that technical solutions (e.g. tighter methods and better statistics) will, in and of themselves, move us forward. All the statistical sophistication in the world can never save us from irrelevance. Indeed, the danger is that we focus so much on our methods of model building that we ignore the fact that they are oriented to trivial problems. Instead Sherif counsels that we start by asking some ‘unthinkable’ questions, the very first of which is ‘What is the nature of the social system?’. In the same way that those who study vision recognise that they need to study the physics of light, so those who study social behaviour must interrogate the structure and functioning of society. Only in this
way can they ask sensible questions about how society impacts the individual. The premise here is that the proper concern of social psychology is precisely how the social world relates to the psychological field of the individual. This was central to his work in the 1930s on the autokinetic effect – where he showed that basic perceptual judgements are shaped by social norms. As Platow and Hunter show us, it was equally central to the Boys’ Camp Studies where he didn’t just provide general descriptions of conflict but provided detailed and exhaustive analysis of multiple aspects of group functioning. In effect, Sherif overcomes a common error in psychology – that of confusing explanandum with explanans (the phenomenon that needs explanation and the explanation itself). That is, individualists assume that because we are explaining individual minds our explanations must be in terms of individual characteristics, while antiindividualists retort that since social factors are critical we must look at aggregate rather than individual phenomena. Sherif was firmly fixed on explaining what individual actors think and do. He insisted, however, that this is only possible by looking at the way that people are placed in relation to each other in society. This indeed was the true radicalism of the realistic conflict theory that Sherif developed to make sense of the Boys’ Camp Studies. He argued that psychological relations between individual group members depend upon the nature of functional interdependencies between groups. How we see and how we treat the other depends upon whether one group’s gain is also the other’s gain (positive interdependence) or whether one group’s gain is the other’s loss (negative interdependence). In simpler terms, cooperative group relations lead to harmony and competitive group relations lead to conflict. Of course in one sense this might seem so obvious as to be trite. But in another it forces us to ask questions about human psychology in terms of what is going on between groups rather than what is fixed in individuals. This presented a profound challenge to theories that were popular at the time, but it still remains a challenge to theories that are becoming increasingly popular today.
Methodological impact It is often remarked that method is the practice of theory. It reflects our
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assumptions about the nature of the subject we are studying and hence how it should be studied. Far too often, however, things work the other way round. We start by fetishising a particular method as the mark of scientific credibility, and this then comes to shape the way that we theorise the human subject. One consequence is that methods that ignore context and that exclude temporal development lead to a desocialised and static psychology. Once again, Sherif provides an alternative for us. In order to show how social context shapes our psychology, he (and Carolyn) created rich and compelling social worlds. He found plausible and effective ways of varying the structure of those worlds. He allowed the consequences to play out over an extended time period. And, by doing so, he provided compelling evidence of the importance of time and place. As Perry convincingly documents, such methods present huge logistical challenges and raise huge ethical issues. But, as Platow and Hunter suggest with equal force, the costs of ignoring such epic methods may be even greater. We have argued before on a number of occasions, if one rules out sufficiently powerful investigations of the social variability in human action, one is left only to study sources of individual variability. This privileging of the individual over the social leads to a lopsided account of human psychology. Of course, it is important to address the cognitive capacities and neural architecture that make human action possible. But next time someone suggests that they have found the ‘violence region’ in the brain, or the violence gene, or the violence neurotransmitter, as if to do so allows us to explain the phenomenon, remember how Sherif transformed the cream of his crop and exercise caution.
Social impact Kayaog˘lu and her fellow Turkish colleagues reveal to us the integrity and the continuity of Sherif’s psychological, social and political thought. He was a radical critic of the social relations in contemporary society. For him, it is these contingent relations rather than a timeless human nature that are the source of human ills. His psychology, essentially, was designed to substantiate the links. For some, Sherif’s radicalism (a complex mixture of Marxist, modernist and gestalt ideas as Kayaog˘lu and colleagues point out) may be off-putting and may dent their willingness to embrace Sherif’s arguments. But if Sherif
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Moving forward The astute reader will have noted a contradiction – or at least a tension – between the various elements of our argument. For if social context is such
becomes critical. The study is relatively unknown, it was never written up in detail, precisely because the boys’ construction of social relations was at odds with that which the experimenters wanted to impose. Nonetheless, one of those involved, Herbert Kelman, wrote detailed (unpublished) notes about what happened. He recounts the multiple ways in which the experimenters sought to induce competition and conflict between the groups. But the more they tried, the more the boys became suspicious that the experimenters were the real outgroup, trying to set them against each other – and the more this brought the boys together. Sherif concluded that any further intervention would simply solidify this suspicion and hence he concluded the experiment. But what Sherif saw as a failure raises critical questions about how people construe groups and intergroup relations. It provides a way into the question of how the frame of reference is understood and Kelman, in his notes, provides important clues to answers. In particular, he points to the importance not only of leadership, but also of communication structures within and between the boys, and of their previous experiences and understandings. In sum, Sherif’s work takes us beyond Sherif. As well as providing a model of how powerful, persuasive and impactful social psychology should be done, it also allows us to understand and appreciate what still needs to be done. In this special feature, then, we come neither simply to praise Sherif, nor to bury him. Rather, we hope to provide a balanced and timely assessment of his work and to inspire others to take up the reins where he left off. JENNIFER BAZAR, KELLI VAUGHN-JOHNSON, AND JACY YOUNG
incorporates Marx into his perspective, this is primarily to do with an understanding of the human condition that is rooted in historical forms of social reality. This is exemplified in Marx’s sixth thesis on Feuerbach where he famously wrote: ‘the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality, it is the ensemble of social relations’ (cited in Geras, 1983, p.29). In effect, Sherif gives psychological substance to this philosophical claim. Is violence part of the human essence? Not at all. Does it derive from the character of our social relations? Absolutely. And what are those social relations? Relations of competition in which different groups are pitted against each other. This is a profoundly optimistic, empancipatory and activist psychology. It tells us that humanity is not doomed to conflict, that human brutality is not something that we might bemoan but must reluctantly accept because life is necessarily nasty, brutal and short. It also points to the group level at which we must operate in order to bring about positive forms of social change – enjoining us to transform the social relations of competition between groups in society. Indeed, Sherif’s corpus of work was not just a reflection on how society (and hence human psychology) is, it is a passionate advocacy for how society (and hence human psychology) should be. One can accept all of this without necessarily taking the further step that claims that capitalist market relations are the root of such competition and that such competition is inherent in capitalist market relations. But, having said that, there is surely mileage in investigating such claims. In a period where every relationship is becoming commodified – so that not only are customers in shops regarded as consumers but also patients in hospitals and students in lecture theatres – it is important to examine how this impacts relationships, how it brings people together or sets them against each other, and how it creates conflict or else harmony. In short, Sherif leads us to address the costs of treating the whole world like a marketplace and (worse) of trying to turn the whole world into a marketplace.
a strong determinant of the human subject, how can those subjects act to reshape the social context? This is a classic issue, not only in Marxist thought but in the social sciences more generally (where it is framed as the structure–agency debate). Sherif was well aware of this problem. In theory, at least, he recognised that people actively deliberate over the way they relate to others (their frame of reference). But it is also fair to say that he prioritised the way in which an imposed frame of reference affects our deliberations. Certainly his theorisation of the Boys’ Camp Studies leaves little place for the active subject and suggests that we cannot but conform to the structures layered upon us. One consequence of this theoretical focus is a tendency to ignore, or at least to underplay, discrepant empirical phenomena. Two elements in particular stand out. The first is highlighted by Perry later in this feature, on the basis of her fascinating interviews with Sherif’s original participants. It has to do with the issue of leadership and the role of experimenters as leaders (something we have identified as an important feature of other ‘classic’ studies). However hard they tried to be neutral, the mere fact that the adults in the camp did nothing when conflict arose signalled an implicit norm that conflictual behaviour was acceptable. Thus, a competitive structure was complemented by an interpretative process as to how one should view and respond to others – a process in which leaders played a key part. Yet second, and relatedly, however much the experimenters tried to create a competitive environment, and however much they contributed to the interpretation of that environment, the boys did not always accept that interpretation. At times, they resisted rather than conformed. This is where Sherif’s abandoned study of 1953
Stephen Reicher is at the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
S. Alexander Haslam is at the School of Psychology, University of Queensland email@example.com
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Research. Digested. Free.
www.bps.org.uk/digest ‘Easy to access and free, and a mine of useful information for my work: what more could I want? I only wish I’d found this years ago!’ Dr Jennifer Wild, Consultant Clinical Psychologist & Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry ‘The selection of papers suits my eclectic mind perfectly, and the quality and clarity of the synopses is uniformly excellent.’ Professor Guy Claxton, University of Bristol
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The unknown Muzafer Sherif Aysel Kayaoğlu, Sertan Batur and Ersin Aslıtürk consider the social psychologist and political activist Like many of the ‘greats’ of social psychology, Muzafer Sherif is frequently cited in the textbooks for his most famous research – on the autokinetic effect, and the Boys’ Camp Studies. At the same time, his wider intellectual and political perspective, and his vision of the discipline as a whole, has generally been ignored Recently, however social scientists from across the world have started to pay attention to Sherif’s critical contribution to social psychology. Books have been written, symposia organised. So, what was Sherif’s wider contribution? And what was the context from which it arose?
uzafer Sherif’s life was shaped by his experience of a turbulent Sherif’s early years historical period: the final years Muzafer Sherif was born Muzaffer S¸erif of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of the Bas¸og˘ lu in 1905. He came from a small Turkish Republic, one party regime in town (Ödemis¸, near Izmir) in 1905, one Turkey, the Great Depression of 1929, of the five children of a wealthy family. Hitler’s rise in Germany, the Second After attending the Elementary School World War, McCarthyism in the US in of Ödemis¸ for six years, Sherif, like the the 1950s and finally the Cold War children of other well-to-do families, went period (Aslıtürk & Batur, 2007, pp.9-10). to Izmir International College (Çetik, Sherif developed his social psychology 2007). By 1922, when Sherif was 17 years in a catastrophic context of war and old, he had lived 11 years of his life in a ideological conflicts. Moreover, he was country riven by war and ethnic conflict actively involved in the politics of these (see Ahmad, 1993; Zürcher, 1993). He times, particularly during his years in had witnessed rising nationalisms, during Turkey. the 1911 Libyan War, the 1912 and 1913 Looking at his entire life, one cannot Balkan Wars and the 1914 outbreak of the help thinking that there are two Sherifs: First World War, during which the one is a brilliant social psychologist; the other is a political activist who had to flee his country and died in exile. Sherif’s life, like his times, was full of difficulties. His life was divided between Turkey and the US. This sharp separation of life between two countries can be seen as a voyage from Muzaffer S¸erif to Muzafer Sherif, from one life to another (Batur & Aslıtürk, 2007). As Çetik (2007) states, for Sherif, there was a transition from the ‘membership group’ to the ‘reference group’. Sherif witnessed the city of Izmir changing hands in 1922
Ahmad, F. (1993). The making of modern Turkey. London; New York: Routledge. Aslıtürk, E. (in press). Muzafer Sherif in America: Confidence, crisis and beyond. In A. Dost-Gözkan & D. Sönmez Keith (Eds.) Norms, group, conflict, and social change: Rediscovering Muzafer Sherif’s psychology. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Why is Muzafer Sherif only known by his studies on formation of social norms and inter-group conflict, but not by his other work on psychology of race, racism and political psychology?
Aslıtürk, E. & Batur, S. (2007). Muzaffer Şerif’ten Muzafer Sherif’e: Giriş. In S. Batur & E. Aslıtürk (Eds.). Muzaffer Şerif’e armağan: Muzaffer Şerif’ten Muzafer Şerif’e (pp.9–20). Istanbul: İletişim. Aslıtürk, E. & Cherry, F. (2003). Muzafer Sherif: The interconnection of politics and profession. History and Philosophy of Psychology Bulletin, 15, 11–16.
Atılgan, G. (2009). Behice Boran: Öğretim üyesi, siyasetçi, kuramcı [Behice Boran: Academician, politician, theoretician]. Istanbul: Yordam. Batur, S. (2013). Muzaffer Şerif’in Türkçe metinleri neden okunmalı? Muzaffer Şerif Sempozyumu, 3–4 November, Ödemiş, Izmir. Batur, S. (2014). A young scientist in a changing world: Muzafer Sherif’s early years in Turkey. (Unpublished
BAŞKANLıĞıNı AYDıN ERKMEN/ATATÜRK VE KURTULUŞ SAVAŞı MÜZESI
Dost-Gözkan, A.& Sönmez Keith, D. (Eds.) (In press). Norms, group conflict, and social change: Rediscovering Muzafer Sherif’s psychology. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. Nalbantoğlu, H.Ü. (2007). Gene de Unutulmayan Adam. In S. Batur & E. Aslıtürk (Eds.) Muzaffer Şerif’e armağan: Muzaffer Şerif’ten Muzafer Sherif’e (pp.107–117). Istanbul: İletişim.
What is the impact of early life of Muzafer Sherif in Turkey on his later approach to social psychology?
Nonetheless, the two sides of Sherif, and the two periods of his life, are also intimately interlinked. Sherif’s academic work was social in the sense that it was immensely influenced by sociopolitical events. He passionately devoted all his scientific activity to the ideal of universal peace and cooperation. And we can only understand how that happened if we try to recover his ‘unknown’ early years in Turkey.
manuscripts). University of Vienna. Batur, S. (in press). Muzafer Sherif in FBI files. In A. Dost-Gözkan & S. Sönmez Keith (Eds.) Norms, groups, conflict, and social change: Rediscovering Muzafer Sherif’s psychology. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. Batur, S. & Aslıtürk, E. (Eds.) (2007). Muzaffer Şerif’e armağan: Muzaffer Şerif’ten Muzafer Şerif’e. Istanbul: İletişim.
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Ottoman Empire was an ally of Germany. He had lived through the deportation of Armenians in 1915 (even in a little place like Ödemis¸ some 1500 people were expelled – see Kévorkian, 2006), and between 1918 and 1924, while in Izmir, he had witnessed the occupation of the city by Greek soldiers, and then reoccupation by Turkish soldiers during the Turkish National Independence War. Sherif saw his survival as a ‘miracle’ (Trotter, 1985). After graduating from International College in 1924, Sherif enrolled in the Philosophy Department at Istanbul University. He also participated in political debates on the modernisation (which Sherif strongly supported) and westernisation processes in the new Turkish society. In this context, the young student became interested in McDougall’s ‘hormic psychology’ (which, in contrast to behaviourism, emphasised the purposive and goal-directed nature of human Photo from 1944 including Behice Boran and action). Sherif translated Muzafer Sherif McDougall’s Physiological Psychology (1905) into Turkish and Harvard, Sherif visited Europe in 1932. also, by way of comparison, the Under the influence of two of his behaviourism chapter of Ogden’s Meaning teachers, Gordon Allport and Caroll Pratt, of Psychology (1926). After graduating, he went to Berlin in order to attend the Sherif went to the US for his MA and PhD lectures of Köhler. Here he witnessed the studies. rise of Nazism (Granberg & Sarup, 1992). Sherif’s MA years were the time of Intellectually, Sherif’s letters to Allport the Great Depression in the US. Under reveal that he was planning to work on a the influence of Gordon Allport at social psychological theory of (social) Harvard, he widened the scope of his perception based on gestalt principles intellectual interests towards other fields (Samelson, 2007). of social sciences. During this period In the autumn of 1933 Sherif went Sherif was moving away from McDougall’s back to Harvard for his PhD. He intentionalism towards a focus on the contributed to the work of Hadley Cantril social structuration of perception and and Gordon Allport on radio psychology understanding. This change led him to (Cantril & Allport, 1935) and developed experimental studies of ‘prestigea psychology of slogans (Sherif, 1937a). suggestion’ which became the subject In terms of sociopolitical developments, of his MA thesis (Batur, 2014). there were Roosevelt’s New Deal policies After finishing his MA degree at
Cantril, H. & Allport, G.W. (1935). The psychology of radio. New York: Harper & Bros. Cherry, F. (1995). The stubborn particulars of social psychology: Essays on the research process. London: Routledge. Çetik, M. (2007). Muzaffer Şerif karanlık odada: Türkiye yılları. In S. Batur & E. Aslıtürk (Eds.) Muzaffer Şerif’e armağan: Muzaffer Şerif’ten Muzafer Şerif’e (pp.23–54). Istanbul: İletişim.
Granberg, D & Sarup, G. (1992). Muzafer Sherif: Portrait of a passionate intellectual. In D. Granberg & G. Sarup (Eds). Social judgment and intergroup relations: Essays in honor of Muzafer Sherif (pp.3–54). New York: Springer -Verlag. Kévorkian, R. (2006). Le génocide des Arméniens [Armenian genocide]. Paris: Odile Jacob. McDougall, W. (1905). Physiological
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against the economic crisis, and in 1935 the Comintern took a decision to promote broad popular fronts with social democratic parties in order to form a worldwide anti-fascist front. These developments constituted a convenient milieu for communist ideas in the US, especially among academic circles. Like other Turkish intellectuals who visited the US in those years (Atılgan, 2009), Sherif is thought to be influenced by this context and to have developed a Marxist social analysis to stand beside his psychological gestaltism. He was influenced by the Deweyian socialist journal Social Frontier, which supported collectivism against individualism, and on his return to Turkey he continued to promote both the journal and Dewey’s ideas (Sherif, 1937b). Sherif fell out with Allport both personally and intellectually and so transferred from Harvard to Columbia, where he completed his PhD with Gardner Murphy. His thesis was titled ‘A study of some social factors in perception’ (1935). His main question was ‘What is the psychological basis of social norms or frames of reference, and how do they work?’ (p.10). The work has since gained foundational status in social psychology through its publication, in 1936, as A Psychology of Social Norms. After the doctorate Sherif returned to Turkey where his politics, his psychology, and the links between them, became ever more clearly defined. He was in contact with the Communist Party of Turkey. During the years of WWII, he published in Adımlar [Steps] journal with Behice Boran, another Marxist sociologist and important political figure after the war. Sherif struggled against the rising tide of fascism and racism in Turkey (e.g. Sherif, 1943a, 1944). Like many, he believed in modernisation, but he was distinctive both in distinguishing modernisation
psychology. London: J.M. Dent. Ogden, C.K. (1926). The meaning of psychology. New York/London: Harper & Bros. Rohrer, J.H. & Sherif, M. (Eds.) (1951). Social psychology at the crossroads. New York: Harper. Samelson, F. (2007). Muzaffer Şerif’in sosyal psikoloji görüşlerinin doğuşu üzerine bir not [A note on the emergence of Muzafer Sherif’s views
of social psychology]. In S. Batur & E. Aslıtürk (Eds.) Muzaffer Şerif’e armağan: Muzaffer Şerif’ten Muzafer Şerif’e (pp.131–135). Istanbul: İletişim. Sherif, M. (1935). A study of some social factors in perception. Archives of Psychology, 187, 1–60. Sherif, M. (1936). A psychology of social norms. Oxford: Harper. Sherif, M. (1937a). The psychology of
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from westernisation and in challenging top-down models of social change. At the social psychological level, Sherif honed the idea that human thoughts, goals and desires (our ego functions, in his terms) are not inborn or absolute, but take shape in society. It is not that people are inherently individualistic and antagonistic, thus legitimising a society based on private property as a reflection of ‘human nature’. It is more that a society based on private property creates atomised and antagonistic individuals. Hence, if we want to challenge moral collapse in society, education is insufficient, we need to change the fundamental structure of our world. Social harmony depends upon creating a harmonious social order. But if society creates the person, Sherif also believed that people are active agents in creating society. More specifically, he proposed that individuals don’t just operate within a pre-given frame of reference but are able to develop their
Carolyn Sherif was notable amongst Muzafer’s collaborators
own frames of reference (Sherif, 1938a,b). Sadly, however, this important work has never been translated from the Turkish. Sherif’s increasingly bold rhetoric did not go unnoticed, especially when he began to attack those important Turkish bureaucrats who supported the Nazis. But Sherif was not deterred. He explicitly sided with the anti-fascist camp during a conflict at his university. He boldly opposed a discrimination case targeting a Jewish student (Batur, 2013). He published a book against racism Irk Psikolojisi [Race Psychology] (1943b). All this led him to be detained in 1944 as part of a process targeting members of the Turkish Communist Party. He was released after four weeks and he then left Turkey in early 1945 with a US State Scholarship. In 1947 Sherif was dismissed from his position at Ankara University, ostensibly because he was married to a foreigner, but in reality because of his politics. All the other anti-fascist professors were dismissed from the university in 1948. In 1951 many of his close friends were arrested during an anticommunist purge. Sherif’s links with his homeland had come to a close.
Years of exile In the 1940s Muzafer Sherif explicitly sided with the anti-fascist camp
slogans. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 32, 450–461. Sherif, M. (1937b). Roosevelt Amerikasında terbiyede fertçiliğin yıkılışı [The collapse of individualism in Roosevelt America]. Ülkü, 10(55), 43–49. Sherif, M. (1938a). ’Tab-ı beşer’ hakkında [On essence of man]. İnsan, 1(2), 109–116. Sherif, M. (1938b). Benliğin doyurulması
Sherif produced some of his important work in the early days of his return to US. First, working with Hadley Cantril at
[Satisfaction of ego]. İnsan, 1(3), 197–203. Sherif, M. (1943a). Hümanizma görüşümüz [Our humanism view], Adımlar, 1(8), 249–251. Sherif, M. (1943b). Irk psikolojisi [Race psychology]. Istanbul: Üniversite Kitabevi. Sherif, M. (1944). İleri fikir geri fikir münakaşası [Discussion on progressive thought and backward
Princeton, he produced his clearest statement of the social basis of human psychology. This was The Psychology of Ego Involvements, published in 1947 – just before the Cold War gained momentum and a period in which anti-fascist, antiracist and Marxist ideas were popular in social scientific academic circles in US. In the book Sherif and Cantril compared Soviet and American societies, arguing that very different values and beliefs flowed from very different socio-cultural contexts. Once again, Sherif’s enduring message was clear: an individualistic, competitive and conflictual society is not unavoidable (Aslıtürk, in press). After his period at Princeton, Sherif moved to Yale and soon thereafter to Oklahoma where he remained until 1966. In the 1950s his political views became less popular. The Cold War, McCarthyite witch hunts in the US (which touched Sherif himself insofar as he was the subject of a comprehensive FBI investigation in 1951 – see Batur, in press) and the oppression of his friends in Turkey all took their toll on Sherif personally, politically and professionally (Aslıtürk & Cherry, 2003). He became less explicit about his Marxism. But nonetheless one can still see a continuity in his core ideas. This is apparent in the second of Sherif’s core contributions of his exile years. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, along with his collaborators (notably his wife Carolyn) he devoted his intellectual energies to reconceptualising social psychology as a discipline. He edited a series of influential texts including An Outline of Social Psychology (Sherif, 1948), Social Psychology at the Crossroads (Rohrer & Sherif, 1951), Group Relations at the Crossroads (Sherif & Wilson, 1953), Groups in Harmony and Tension (Sherif & Sherif, 1953) and Emerging Problems in Social Psychology (Sherif & Wilson, 1957). In these volumes, he argued for a more ‘social’ social psychology, for methodological plurality, and for interdisciplinarity. Most fundamentally, he sought to combat the emergence of
thought]. Adımlar, 1(9), 305–306. Sherif, M. (1948). An outline of social psychology. New York: Harper. Sherif, M. (1970). On the relevance of social psychology. American Psychologist, 25, 144–156. Sherif, M. (1977). Crisis in social psychology: Some remarks towards breaking through the crisis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3, 368–382.
Sherif, M. & Cantril, H. (1947). The psychology of ego-involvements: Social attitudes and identifications. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Sherif, M. & Sherif, C.W. (1953). Groups in harmony and tension. New York: Harper. Sherif, M. & Wilson, M.O. (Eds.) (1953). Group relations at the crossroads. New York: Harper. Sherif, M. & Wilson, M.O. (Eds.) (1957).
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confidence’ was itself a psychologisation of the crisis. He was critical of the ‘publish or perish’ attitude in academy. He stated that ‘mostly because of the unrelated idiosyncratic variables and scientistic technical sophistications’ research in social psychology was ‘too myopic, too ethnocentric, too fragmented and too incoherent’ (p.372). Above all, he insisted that any solution to the crisis depended upon a clear and critical perspective on the nature of the social world. Without that, social psychology will always be inadequate.
Carolyn and Muzafer brought an optimistic and liberatory message that people could get along and work for common goals if the conditions were right
individualistic and reductionist explanations of human behaviour (see Granberg & Sarup, 1992) and to insist on the social structuration of the human mind. This message is perhaps at its clearest in the most famous of Sherif’s post-war contributions, his boys’ camp field experiments conducted with Carolyn Sherif, which gave rise to ‘realistic conflict theory’ (Sherif et al., 1961). At one level the message of this work is disarmingly simple: psychological relations between group members reflect functional relations between groups. But at another level the message could hardly be more profound, both theoretically, methodologically and politically. Group behaviour cannot be reduced to intrapersonal tendencies or interpersonal conflicts. It depends on social structural
Emerging problems in social psychology. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange. Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J. et al. (1961). Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The Robbers Cave experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange. Trotter, R.J. (September, 1985). Muzafer Sherif: a life of conflict and goals. Psychology Today. 19, p.54.
factors. Consequently, group behaviour must be studied in its context, and we must employ rich methods that make this possible (Valentim, 2007). Finally as Cherry (1995, p.106) states, ‘the Sherifs were bringing an optimistic and liberatory message that people could get along and work for common goals if the conditions were right’; this even in the dark days of the Cold War. Even at the end of his career, in the 1970s Sherif maintained his focus. In critical interventions in the debate on the so-called crisis in social psychology (On the Relevance of Social Psychology, 1970; Crisis in Social Psychology: Some Remarks Towards Breaking Through the Crisis, 1977), Sherif questioned the values guiding social scientific studies. He argued that the characterisation crisis in social psychology as the ‘crisis of
Valentim, J.P. (2007). Sherif’in teorik görüşleri ve gruplar arası ilişki Çalışmaları: Olumlu bir karşılıklı bağımlılık için notlar [Sherif theoretical concepts and intergroup relations studies: Notes for a positive interdependence]. In S. Batur & E. Aslıtürk (Eds.) Muzaffer Şerif’e armağan: Muzaffer Şerif’ten Muzafer Şerif’e (pp.179–192). Istanbul: İletişim. Zürcher, E.J. (1993). Turkey: A modern history. London/New York: Tauris.
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Sherif retired from Pennsylvania State University in 1972. He died, in Alaska, in 1988. His work on social norms and on the boys’ camps is still cited in the textbooks, but in a way that divorces them from the wider intellectual project that Sherif pursued throughout his career. That project remains to be discovered in full and to be acknowledged in psychology and beyond. What is more, such a (re-)discovery is important in order to understand that the current problems of (social) psychology are not really new, and a solution of these problems requires political and ‘social’ commitments, a clearer understanding of the social nature of mind, and not simply greater methodological sophistication and technical progress. We believe that the roots of such understanding can be traced in Sherif’s own scholarship and that scrutiny of his personal and academic life will pave the way to scrutinise our own positions and responsibilities. Aysel Kayaoğlu is at Anadolu University, Eskisehir, Turkey firstname.lastname@example.org
Sertan Batur is at the University of Vienna, Austria
Ersin Aslıtürk is at Ottawa University, Canada
The view from the boys Gina Perry looks at how Sherif’s participants saw his studies
What was the camp like from the point of view of the boys who took part?
Cherry, F. (1995). The stubborn particulars of social psychology: Essays on the research process. London: Routledge. Billig, M. (1976). Social psychology and intergroup relations. London: Academic Press. Inside Robbers Cave radio documentary: www.abc.net.au/radionational/ programs/hindsight/inside-robberscave/4515060
Billig, M. (1976). Social psychology and intergroup relations. London: Academic Press. Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J. et al. (1961). Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The Robbers Cave experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange.
What do their reactions and recollections add to our understanding of Sherif’s famous studies?
n August 2013 at a roadside café halfway between the town of Edmond and Oklahoma City, Bill Snipes and Ovis Smith met again after 59 years. The last time they’d seen each other was at the Robbers Cave State Park in southeastern Oklahoma, when they were 11 years old. For both of them the three-week camp involved a number of firsts. It was the first time either of them had been to a summer camp, it was the first time they met and it the first time they saw a man shoot a gun. Bill and Ovis were members of the Rattlers group at Robbers Cave in 1954 and while they don’t recall a lot about the camp, they each recall the same incident in vivid detail. They remember paddling a canoe across a lake. As the canoe moved close to the bank they heard a commotion in the bushes at the lake’s edge. As they got closer they saw two snakes had hold of a Bill Snipe returns to Robbers Cave State Park large frog. Each snake had one of the frog’s legs in its mouth and the frog was thrashing about, Sherif later wrote off as a failure, one boy trying to free itself. asked the staff what the microphones Bill and Ovis were both city boys and hanging from the rafters in the mess hall paddling a canoe on a lake in the wilds were for. In the same study, boys who of southern Oklahoma was a novel formed friendships during the initial experience. So was seeing a snake, let whole-group phase felt aggrieved when alone two snakes in the act of swallowing they were separated from new friends. a frog. As the boys watched in fascinated Resentment towards camp staff intensified horror, the man with them in the boat during the competition phase as both drew a gun and shot and killed both teams accused staff of bias and snakes. favouritism. In their attempts to increase Bill, Ovis and the rest of the boys in tension between the groups, the the canoe would later call their group the experimenters were intent on keeping Rattlers in honour of the incident on the the two teams neck and neck in games or lake. activities in which points were awarded. But this was just the kind of incident A rumour amongst the boys that the that Muzafer Sherif wanted to avoid. In camp was an experiment in which they written instructions staff were told were expected to fight one another was ‘Nobody is to be a leader to the boys. Staff confirmed when one boy found a staff are to maintain professional distance in notebook including detailed observations the course of the study. They are not to of the groups’ reactions. demonstrate any skills that might make As Michael Billig (1976) pointed out,
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Discussions of Muzafer Sherif’s camp studies revolve around the behaviour of human groups. Typically, the warring between two groups of children is presented as something atavistic, an inevitable outcome of competition for resources. But Sherif and his team took an active role in the facilitation and fanning of conflict between the children. What did children make of the camp and how ‘natural’ did it seem to them?
them popular with the subjects. They are not to wear any insignia, adopt any nicknames or interact with subjects in any way that they might contaminate the group dynamics that they are there to observe.’ The adults would discover that this was easier said than done. In all three of the intergroup conflict studies that Sherif conducted between 1949 and 1954, the boys showed their curiosity about the men running the camp and looked to the adults for guidance. In the first study in 1949, Sherif, who disguised himself as ‘Mr Musee’ the camp caretaker, wrote that ‘once when I was taking notes the boys asked if it was part of the study’. Also during a baseball game a boy asked Sherif why he only took pictures of the disputes. In the second study in 1953, which
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Doug’s story Doug says his parents would have been pleased and flattered to receive a letter telling them their son had been ‘selected’ for a study of ‘leadership skills’ that involved prestigious organisations like Yale, Union College and the Rockefeller Foundation. ‘It may as well have come from the President of the United States. It was the perfect sell.’ For Doug the summer camp in 1953 in Middle Grove, New York was his first summer camp, his first time away from home. ‘I recall it as an unpleasant experience, that’s the place I got my first injury.’ Identified through staff observations as an emerging leader of the Panther group, Doug was named catcher for his team – a role best occupied by the team leader – in a baseball game against the Pythons. Doug was mystified by the staff’s choice. ‘I never was the catcher. I always batted first because I was small and fast and I could be the first person to get on base. But for some unimaginable reason they made me catcher. I had to be the smallest kid there – I was small for 10. Catchers are big burly kids like a block of granite who are going to catch all the balls and block the plate. They had me be catcher with no protection and I go over to block the plate which the catcher’s supposed to do and this kid came from third base and ran me over.’ Doug was carried off the field and the game went on without him. Two nights later on an overnight camping trip staff noted that Doug woke them four times in the night to complain of stomach pains. Finally, at 4am he was ‘marched’ through the woods back to main camp and the dispensary. The camp ended for Doug with his parents picking him up from hospital. ‘It’s in retrospect thinking about it that I get angry. What kind of men would be standing there taking notes and pictures of boys as they struggled over a game of tug of war. You know, who are these bastards? I get angry about that part. And then three weeks at 10 years old? Come on, that’s not right. So, no it was not anything done bad to me as far as I know and I really believe that. Yes, it probably made me a better person in the long run or a tougher person or whatever, I’ll buy that. But it wasn’t right. It was the wrong thing to do. Morally it was the wrong thing to do.’
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Sherif’s intergroup conflict experiments involved three groups, not two. In addition to the two groups of boys, in each of the camp studies there was the experimental team that included Sherif and his group of participant observers who played the role of ‘senior counsellors’. Junior counsellors were also allocated to each group of boys. These young men were undergraduates who took on the role of typical camp counsellors, and were required to stay with their group at all times to ensure their safety and coordinate and support the activities planned by the experimental staff. The junior counsellors had no role in the experimental team. Their job was to deliver the activities planned for the two groups and ensure that their group was engaged as instructed. They slept in the cabins with the boys, took them to the mess hall for mealtimes, supervised their swimming, and accompanied them on hikes and other outdoor activities. In contrast, the participant observers, while involved in organising and running activities with the junior counsellors had the additional role of observing the boys closely: taking notes, shooting film footage and taking photographs. As Sherif already knew, instructing staff to keep a ‘professional distance’ from the boys was a constant balancing act. In the day-to-day conduct of the experiment, the boundaries between participant and observer, facilitator and participant were at constant risk of being blurred. Staff supplied the matches for flag burning, took photographs during raids of the other group’s tent, and were present when boys discussed and made plans for retaliatory raids. Behaviour amongst the children that would normally attract censure was ignored, if not tacitly encouraged. For example, when a boy in a group was bullied or ostracised by the others, participant observers did not intervene but noted the behaviour as an example of the emergence of group hierarchy. Food fights and name calling at the height of the competition during the Robbers Cave study was not discouraged. (A fact that canteen staff at Robbers Cave objected to. Two cooks threatened to quit unless Sherif took a firm stand on ‘cussing’ and throwing of food.) If the canteen staff found Sherif’s permissiveness shocking, the boys too were surprised by the lack of intervention by the adults. Typical summer camps of the time such as those offered by boy
scouts or church groups – some of which the boys or their siblings had attended – featured interventionist adults whose goal was to foster independence, cooperation and camaraderie amongst the boys in their charge. In contrast, in the experimental camp the same values were ignored if not actively discouraged. For example, in the 1953 study, when a winning team congratulated their opponents for their good sportsmanship after a game, their senior counsellor called them ‘soft’. So what did the boys make of this ‘hands-off’ approach and the reversal of expectations about their behaviour and that of their opposing team? None of the
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handful of boys I’ve spoken to remember the camp they took part in as a happy event. The observation notes compiled by Sherif’s team note symptoms of anxiety among some of the boys, including bedwetting, running away and homesickness. Some like Walt, still feel uneasy about their behaviour years later. ‘I did things at the camp that were very much out of character for me. I had been taking piano lessons for four to five years before the camp. At one point during the camp a bunch of us threw bricks at this old piano and we completely destroyed it. I don’t know where the staff were, but no one showed up and said “Wait a minute,
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The resolution phase – both groups were brought together in a series of cooperative tasks
you’re not supposed to do that”.’ For Sherif and his team it was important that staff did not interact with the boys in any way that might influence the group dynamics they were hoping to study. But the practicalities of running a study of such size and scope made this impartiality almost impossible. There’s no question Sherif and his team felt under considerable pressure. The intergroup conflict experiments required the two groups to move through four distinct phases. And each stage was completely dependent on the one before it. Stage 4, the final stage of resolution could only occur if conflict had broken out in Stage 3. And conflict could only break out if each group had formed a strong identity during the earlier stage. This experimental framework structured the experiment. Sherif allocated specific blocks of time to allow for each group to form and bond, but he wasn’t able to predict exactly how long the friction between the two groups would take to develop, nor how long it would take to heal the rift between them. With limited time and resources the pressure was on the experimental team to move the groups from one phase to another in the 21 days available to them. Some interventions by staff were relatively routine manipulations of the experimental environment to achieve a desired result. For example, artificially inflating the scores of one team over
another to increase rivalry was common in both the 1953 and 1954 studies. But other ‘planned frustrations’ were more contentious, with some staff at the 1953 camp objecting to the degree of intervention that took place as the days allocated to reach the conflict stage dwindled. One staff member recalled his dismay when other staff pulled one of the tents down in the hope that one group of boys would blame the other and the experiment would move to the next phase. ‘It was supposed to be like watching a rat in the maze. But you don’t push the rat’ (Personal communication, 14 July 2012). Robbers Cave was Sherif’s third and final try in the intergroup conflict series and his research funds were almost exhausted. The pressure was particularly intense after the failure of the 1953 study. For an experiment the size and scope of Sherif’s there was an enormous amount of pre-planning that had to take place. In the aftermath of the failed second attempt, Sherif handed the organisation of the next study to his right-hand man and graduate student OJ Harvey, who it was said ‘could organise a bucket of worms’. Sherif and Harvey made plans to overcome the problems that had plagued the previous study. This time Harvey deliberately chose boys with sporting ability, observing them in school playgrounds across Oklahoma City. Highly athletic boys, they reasoned, were
more likely to be competitive, more likely to identify with their team and derogate their opponents, therefore making open conflict between the two groups more likely. But the fanning of the conflict between the Rattlers and Eagles turned what the boys thought was going to be a fun summer camp into something quite different. OJ Harvey recalled that as the friction intensified so too did the risk that the boys would want to go home. The success of the experiment depended on the boys staying until the end. Some were already homesick and we were afraid the Eagles would fall apart if they lost. They might want to go home, or get sick, or something like that. So we deliberately let them win the competition. (Personal communication, May 2010)
Moving quickly to the resolution phase where both groups were brought together in a series of cooperative tasks was a relief for the staff who were finally able to reach a stage of the experiment they had not reached before. But it was also a relief to the boys. The conflict was over, the groups worked together, and finally they headed home. In the café halfway between their two homes in Oklahoma, Bill and Ovis revisited their memories of Robbers Cave almost 60 years after the event. Bill remembers his first camp as a chance to be independent, to have a holiday his parents would not normally be able to afford. In contrast, Ovis remembers how good going home felt. I didn’t realise how homesick I was until I got home and saw my parents again... I remember tearing up a little bit when I saw my folks.
For both boys the adults at the camp loomed large in their memories of the competitiveness, the raids, the fights and the final reconciliation. Sherif may have hoped his experimental team would be unobtrusive and have no influence on the young boys who came to camp. But in the boys’ eyes, the adults were central. After all, the Rattlers named their group in honour of the gun-slinging man who freed the frog from the rattlesnakes. In their eyes he was not only a hero, he was a member of their group. Gina Perry is a psychologist and writer, currently completing her PhD at the University of Melbourne email@example.com. edu.au www.gina-perry.com
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Necessarily collectivistic Michael J. Platow and John A. Hunter reflect on Muzafer Sherif’s Boys’ Camp Studies
The corpus of work produced by Muzafer Sherif, including the Boys’ Camp Studies, reminds us that groups have both a material reality and psychological validity. This work directs us to examine group processes and intergroup relations at the appropriate group and intergroup level. And it admonishes us to achieve these ends through sound conceptual clarity. The Boys’ Camp Studies themselves remain a valuable model for creating psychologically meaningful groups with, among other things, histories, norms and real intergroup relations. They highlight the theme that runs through all of Sherif’s work, that individual behaviour – made possible only through individual minds – cannot be understood through analyses of those individual minds removed from the social context.
Was Gordon Allport correct in saying that Sherif was ‘unnecessarily collectivistic’? Would it be better to study prejudice, discrimination and intergroup stereotypes by studying simply the psychology of individuals as individuals?
Did Sherif and his colleagues have sufficient conceptual clarity to make the claims they did, or were they too vague in their approach to science?
Allport, G.W. (1958). The nature of prejudice. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Granberg, D. & Sarup, G. (1992). Muzafer Sherif: Portrait of a passionate intellectual. In D. Granberg & G. Sarup (Eds.) Social judgment and intergroup relations: Essays in honor of Muzafer Sherif (pp.3-54). New York: Springer-Verlag. Platow, M.J. & Hunter, J.A. (2001). Realistic intergroup conflict:
ow do you write yet another review of Muzafer Sherif’s well-known Boys’ Camp Studies, and still manage to say something new? The answer came to us through two otherwise unrelated occurrences. The first of these arose while reviewing Granberg and Sarup’s (1992) excellent biography of Sherif. Through this we learned that two of social psychology’s intellectual heroes, Muzafer Sherif and Gordon Allport, failed to see eye-to-eye when it came to their choice of the appropriate level of analysis for studying group processes, including prejudice. Gordon, much like his brother Floyd, sought explanations of prejudice through analyses of individual psychologies. To be sure, Allport considered societal-level explanations, but for Sherif, ‘Allport’s approach to social psychology was too individualistic’ (Granberg & Sarup, 1992, p.8). Allport, in turn, considered Sherif’s work to be ‘unnecessarily collectivistic’ (Allport, 1958, p.39). The second occurrence came to us as we reflected on e-mail alerts we received from Psychological Science. Here we noted that one of the most downloaded recent articles had proposed that prejudice is caused by low cognitive abilities. Long after Sherif, it appeared that authors continued to advance the individualistic thesis. We found ourselves transported back in time precisely to the Sherif–Allport debate. If we take Allport’s metatheoretical framework to be grounded in ideological liberalism and values of tolerance and individual agency, Sherif’s metatheoretical framework must
Prejudice, power, and protest. In M. Augoustinos & K. J. Reynolds (Eds.) Understanding the psychology of prejudice and racism (pp.195–112). London: Sage. Platow, M.J. & Hunter, J.A. (2012). Intergroup relations and conflict: Revisiting Sherif’s boys’ camp studies. In J.R. Smith & S.A. Haslam (Eds.) Social psychology: Revisiting the classic studies (pp.142–159). Los
surely be more radical. For us, that is certainly the case. And, yet, in our own response to this recent individualistic research, we found ourselves in a position that Sherif must have felt in his debates with Allport. Here before us stood solid scientific work, conducted by people of integrity who have made important contributions to the field, and who clearly share our broad scientific and political values. Yet we disagree. This is a disagreement that we were mindful of as we wrote this article, and it is one that inspired us to try to add something new to what has been said before. Of course, as a psychologist, Sherif saw the individual’s ‘perception of the social world’ as a key focus of his analysis (Sherif & Sherif, 1969, p.8). However, in his thinking (and that of his colleague and wife, Carolyn), the individual should not be conceived in isolation from the rest of the world, but as interdependent
Sherif’s participants didn’t become savages. Good
Angeles: Sage. Platow, M.J., Hunter, J.A., Haslam, S.A. & Reicher, S.D. (in press). Reflections on Muzafer Sherif’s legacy in social identity and self-categorization theories. In A. Dost-Gozkan & D.S. Keith (Eds.) Norms, groups, conflict and social change: Rediscovering Muzafer Sherif’s psychology. Edison, NJ: Transaction. Sherif, M. (1951). A preliminary
experimental study of inter-group relations. In J.H. Rohrer & M. Sherif (Eds.) Social psychology at the crossroads (pp.388–424). New York: Harper & Row. Sherif, M. (1967). Social interaction: Process and products: Selected essays of Muzafer Sherif. Chicago, IL: Aldine. Sherif, M. & Sherif, C.W. (1969). Social psychology. New York: Harper & Row. Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J. et al.
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with it, so that the individual ‘is not merely the recipient of sociocultural influences…[but] is an active participant in the creation of social influences’ (Sherif & Sherif, 1969, p.9). Focusing on individuals’ perceptions, moreover, did not equate with individualistic explanations of intergroup relations. For Sherif, this was simply illogical. Thus, despite his recognition that individuals bring a variety of characteristics to the social context, it was in exasperation that he wrote: the whole indication of the findings of experimental work of the last fifteen years or so is in…the direction of emphasizing the major importance of the new characteristics generated in the group situations… In concrete terms, this means the necessity for studying group relations on the group level. It is almost stupid to make tautological statements like this, but,
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fiction should not be conflated with good science.
(1961). Intergroup conflict and cooperation. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange. Sherif, M., White, B.J. & Harvey, O.J. (1955). Status in experimentally produced groups. American Journal of Sociology, 60, 370–379. Tyerman, A. & Spencer, C. (1983). A critical test of the Sherifs’ Robber’s Cave experiments. Small Group Research, 14, 515–531.
unfortunately, the tenacity of outworn approaches forces one to make such statements. (Sherif, 1951, pp.390–392, original emphasis)
For Sherif, the study of intergroup relations, including stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, was necessarily collectivistic. So what are the contributions that can be garnered from Sherif’s work? One answer to this can be found in a web search for joint references to ‘Robbers Cave’ and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies – a search that generates well over 20,000 hits. Although most of us may envy the impact that Muzafer Sherif has made outside of psychology, this conjunction in the popular mind is, frankly, tragic. Golding’s narrative fictionalised degenerative consequences of the lack of formal norms within group life; it remains an ideological commentary that assumes fundamentally base human motives. Sherif’s science, in contrast, revealed the interdependent nature of collective life and individual psychologies. It exposed the necessarily collectivistic nature of the development not only of intergroup prejudice and hostility, but also of intergroup harmony and reconciliation. Sherif’s participants did not become savages. Good fiction should not be conflated with good science.
The actual Boys’ Camp Studies It is a rare psychology student who has not heard of the famous Boys’ Camp Studies. Because of their broad familiarity, we will only briefly review the studies’ methods and findings before discussing their lasting contributions. However, we do note the less well-known fact that it was not Muzafer’s idea to test the hypotheses in the context of a boys’ camp; it was Carolyn’s. Muzafer and Carolyn were an important and productive team. And, yet, the lesser-known extent of Carolyn’s contributions is, most likely, a reflection itself of a different type of intergroup relationship within our broader field. Three Boys’ Camp Studies are reported in the literature; Table 1 outlines their basic methodological structures. Typically, discussions of these studies highlight three critical phases. However, as can be seen, we have currently relabelled the phases to emphasise particular aspects of the work. The first real phase of the studies was the selection of participants. Sherif did not rely on convenience samples, nor did he sample randomly. Instead, he selected intentionally to maximise the
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homogeneity of his samples. He wanted to ensure that alternative explanations for his results could not be proffered on the basis of a priori intergroup enmity, individual differences (including cognitive abilities) or experienced (excessive) frustration and prejudice. His research team achieved these goals through extensive psychological testing, interviews with family and teachers, and actual observations of the boys (in the final study) as they played in the school-yard. The second phase, typically reported as part of Phase 3 in our table, occurred in the first two studies at the time when the camp actually started. Here, all participating boys were brought together in a situation that allowed them to form interpersonal friendships. This phase is crucial, yet often overlooked. Subsequent interviews with some of the experimenters and some of the actual participants (as adults) revealed, for example, that the 1953 study did not progress in the manner that Sherif anticipated; instead of intergroup animosity, there was a spirit of sportsmanship, reconciliation and intergroup helping. The two groups of boys simply did not form strong intergroup hostilities and prejudice following intergroup competition. This, in turn, became sufficiently problematic that the experimenters simulated a raid on one of the cabins so that the boys would blame the outgroup. Although we may now question the wisdom of this breaking of experimental protocol, the inclusion of this phase, contrasted with its absence in the 1954 study, provides an important type of experimental manipulation in its own right. The interpersonal friendships and an overall shared, inclusive sense of ‘us’ framed subsequent intergroup competitions as more friendly than hostile. This, indeed, is precisely what was observed in a separate independent replication (Tyerman & Spencer, 1983). The hostilities that ultimately emerged from intergroup competition thus did so in the absence of this shared, common ingroup frame of reference. The third phase is the one in which the two groups were finally created, and intragroup interdependencies, norms, roles and social identifications emerged. This was followed by the crucial fourth phase of intergroup competition for limited and valued resources. Pocket knives and trophies were awarded to winning groups, while losing groups received nothing. Here, and particularly in the most famous Robbers Cave Experiment of 1954, stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination clearly developed. Indeed, in stark contrast to
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the studies in which interpersonal friendships and shared common identities were able to form first, experimenter notes from this final experiment suggest that the increased hostilities actually threatened to destabilise the experiment. Finally, the fifth phase of the experiment instituted procedures to try to bring about intergroup harmony. The greatest animosity was, again, in the Robbers Cave Experiment, so it was this study that required the most involved conflict-resolution strategy. An initial bringing together of the two groups in the absence of positive intergroup interdependence failed to produce beneficial outcomes. It was not until the two groups were forced to cooperate in order to achieve a series of superordinate
goals that the hostilities subsided and boys from both groups united as friends.
Social psychological lessons Needless to say, despite the intrigue, interest, and basic scientific contributions of Sherif’s studies, they have been subject to their fair share of theoretical, methodological and ethical criticism over the past half-century. We have reviewed some of the criticisms elsewhere (Platow & Hunter, 2001, 2012), so currently we simply recognise that the studies are not without fault. Despite this recognition, however, we remain convinced that Sherif’s work made substantial contributions to our discipline. Indeed, expanding on our earlier Experiment
Sherif et al., 1955**
Sherif et al., 1961
‘Bull Dogs’ & ‘Red Devils’
‘Panthers’ & ‘Pythons’
‘Eagles’ & ‘Rattlers’
‘Upstate’ New York
Measurement of family characteristics
Example Outlet of Report* The Groups Location of study Phase 1: Participant Selection
Phase 2: Spontaneous Interpersonal Friendships and Common In-Group Identity All boys meet and interact with each other
Planned frustration of ingroups
Phase 3: In-Group Formation Arbitrary division into two matched sets according to specified criteria
Phase 4: Intergroup Conflict
Phase 5: Reduction of Conflict Common enemy, individual activities, adult intervention
Contact without interdependence
Series of superordinate goals
Sherif and his colleagues produced several different publications of various aspects of the different studies. ** This study was terminated early when the boys learned that they were being manipulated by the experimenters; for this reason, this study is often not discussed in the literature. Table 1 Outline of the phases in each of the three Boys’ Camp Studies (reproduced, in part, from Table 11.1 of Sherif & Sherif, 1969)
summary of lessons to be learned from these studies, Sherif and his colleagues showed us that groups do have a material reality (Lesson 1). This reality is both created and manifest through interdependencies, norms, roles and status differences. In addition, however, Sherif’s work taught us that groups have a psychological validity (Lesson 2). People identify with their ingroup, and adopt their ingroup’s goals as their own personal goals. They experience the emotional highs and lows associated with their group’s successes and failures. And they see the world through the lens of their group membership. In this way, intergroup impressions (e.g. stereotypes), attitudes (e.g. prejudice) and behaviours (e.g. discrimination) become psychologically meaningful outcomes of the nature of intergroup relations (Lesson 3). Intergroup competition for limited and valued resources, in and of itself, can produce negative stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Intergroup cooperation for a superordinate goal, in contrast, can change these stereotypes for the better, and reduce the prejudice and discrimination; indeed, simple intergroup contact alone is not sufficient to reduce intergroup hostility once it has arisen.
Intellectual contributions In addition to these social-psychological lessons, we can identify broader intellectual contributions of the Boys’ Camp Studies. The first reiterates that Sherif’s studies highlighted the necessity of studying intergroup behaviour at the appropriate level of analysis. If there is one feature that emerges repeatedly throughout Sherif’s work, it is that group processes and intergroup relations should be studied at the group level, not the individual level. It is a powerful imperative, and underpins, among other things, the entirety of the social identity tradition that followed Sherif. Of course, if our theoretical questions are posed at an individual level, then individual-level accounts are most appropriate. And yet, Sherif also recognised that individual behaviour – made possible only through individual minds – cannot be understood through analyses of those individual minds removed from the social context. The social context moves us, compels us, frames our motivation, attention and interpretations; it affects our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. We never exist outside of a social context, so decontextualising psychological processes is both fruitless and, in reality, impossible. Of course, as we noted from the
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deeper questions that are more theoretically involved and more practically compelling. Sherif’s studies tell us that psychologists can be naturalists: we can observe the natural world, formulate hypotheses about that world, and do our best to recreate that world with all its complexities to evaluate our assumptions critically and fully.
Conclusions Muzafer Sherif was, in the words of Granberg and Sarup (1992, p.3), ‘a passionate intellectual’. He cared about his work – he cared about theory, he cared about methods, and he cared about the real social problems to which he was seeking answers. He knew the reality of intergroup relations. He was a Muslim who attended a Christian school as a child; and, as the story goes, he challenged the anti-Semitic treatment of a Jewish student years later when he was an academic in Turkey. In his own words: I saw the effects of war: families who lost their men and dislocations of human beings. I saw hunger. I saw people killed on my side of national affiliation; I saw people killed on the other side. (Sherif, 1967. p.9)
outset, the individualistic-collectivistic, Sherif–Allport debate is still alive today. Ultimately, it can only be partially resolved empirically; it remains, primarily, conceptual. This is why sound experimental methods can produce results supporting each metatheoretical claim. But sound experimental methods require sound conceptual clarity. This, indeed, is the third intellectual contribution of Sherif. The first task that confronted Sherif and colleagues was the translation of their broad conceptual notions of groups and intergroup relations into specific experimental practices. This translation required the clearest possible theoretical statements. Definitions, disciplinary assumptions, and clearly stated hypotheses permeate Sherif’s work. Indeed, his 1969 textbook with Carolyn is the only social psychology textbook we know of in which basic assumptions are clearly stated (two whole chapters are dedicated to this). Finally, we should not forget that, despite all of the criticisms that can be, and have been, levelled against the Boys’ Camp Studies, Sherif and his colleagues provided us, at minimum, with a model for creating psychologically meaningful
groups with, among other things, histories, norms and real intergroup relations. This is no small legacy. Most social psychologists (ourselves included) fail to generate anything close to the material reality and ego-involvement of the Boys’ Camp Studies. And when the bold among us do try, they are quickly and vigorously attacked (often unreasonably) for their unscientific methods and lack of ethical standards. But what really adds to a deep and lasting understanding of the social psychology of intergroup relations? A laboratory study of ad-hoc group processes or a three-week summer camp experiment on intergroup conflict and cooperation? At the risk of our next academic promotion, it is, without question, the latter. So, we should all examine Sherif’s methods, and with the value of hindsight, improve upon them. Let them inspire us to pursue
He was an avid anti-Nazi. His passion saw him imprisoned in Turkey, and clash with more senior academics. And this passion led him to produce, along with his colleagues, a body of social-psychological theory and research that remains central to our discipline decades after it was completed. The Boys’ Camp Studies, in particular, remain seminal and essential reading. For all their faults, the studies stand, the lessons remain, and their contributions guide us even today. For our own part, we see the intellectual trajectory from the gestalt psychologists, to Sherif, to contemporary social identity and selfcategorisation theorists as natural, logical, and powerful (Platow et al., in press). In the end, Sherif’s work should encourage us to reflect upon the value of conceptually clarifying the level of analysis at which we work, and (better still) recognising the necessary collectivistic nature of the study of intergroup relations.
Michael J. Platow is at the Australian National University, Canberra firstname.lastname@example.org
John A. Hunter is at the University of Otago, New Zealand email@example.com
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Creon’s fatal flaw – when power corrupts The Rt Hon Lord Owen talks to Ian Bushnell (Chair of the Division of Occupational Psychology) about hubris syndrome and his work with the Daedalus Trust
t is unusual for politicians to demonstrate an active interest in Iscience. What brought you to become
Why is hubris such a vital construct? Hubris as a concept is as old as history and much of the earlier writing comes out of Greek mythology. The distinguishing feature of hubris syndrome is that it is confined to people who have no mental illnesses and who could be said to have been ‘normal’ personalities. It is an acquired personality change involving people in positions of power who display personality change where a normal level
personally involved in scientific research? I was a doctor of medicine and did research into neuroscience before I became an MP. Indeed, for two years I went on working in my laboratory at St Thomas’s after I was elected. In those days Parliament did not get started much before early afternoon and I worked in the mornings, then crossed Westminster Bridge and went into the House of Commons until late at night. I was still a bachelor and it was quite convenient. Interestingly, my original work was with David Marsden who later became Professor of Neurology at the National Hospital, Queen’s Square and was awarded an FRS. We researched adrenergic betablocking that consisted amongst other things of injecting adrenaline suitably diluted first into ourselves and then into volunteers. I started returning to science in 1996 when I went on the board of Abbott Laboratories based in Chicago, and until I left the board in 2011 I took a special interest in the research programme and used to spend half a day at least once a year with the research team going over their work prior to a formal board meeting. In 2002 I began to write and David Owen was an MP for 26 years. Under speak on the effects of serious illness Labour governments he was Navy Minister, in heads of government including what Minister of Health and Foreign Secretary; he I call hubris syndrome or, in Bertrand co-founded the Social Democratic Party in Russell’s words, the damaging 1981 and served as leader from 1983 to consequences of those suffering with 1990. He was EU Co-Chairman of the peace ‘intoxication of power’. A paperback negotiations in the former Yugoslavia 1992–95. entitled The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, He now sits as an independent social democrat Blair and the Intoxication of Power was in the House of Lords. published in 2007 and a more substantial book the following year In of hubristic behaviour is accompanied by Sickness and In Power: Illness in Heads of 14 signs and symptoms that I elaborated Government over the Last 100 years, both on in an article in Brain in 2009, which of which have since been revised and I co-authored with Professor Jonathan updated and the ebook version will be Davidson, then Professor of Psychiatry available this summer.
and Director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke University. Some see hubris as nothing more than the extreme manifestation of normal behaviour along a spectrum of narcissism. Others simply dismiss hubris as an occupational hazard of powerful leaders, politicians or leaders in business, the military and academia – an unattractive but understandable aspect of those who crave power. Hubris can be formulated so that it becomes appropriate to think of hubris in medical terms, but it needs a wider perspective, psychology in particular. Physicians and psychiatrists can help in identifying features of hubris and so can trained mentors or non-executive directors in business contribute to designing legislation, codes of practice and democratic processes to constrain some of its features. Neuroscientists can discover through brain imaging, blood and urine tests more about the presentations of abnormal personality. A certain level of hubris can indicate a shift in the behavioural pattern of a leader who then becomes no longer fully functional in terms of the powerful office held. Extreme hubristic behaviour is a syndrome, constituting a cluster of features (‘symptoms’) evoked by a specific trigger (power), and usually remitting when power fades. In defining the boundaries, hubris syndrome is not the same as narcissistic personality disorder, a subtype of NPD or a separate entity. However as shown in the table opposite, seven of the 14 possible defining symptoms are also among the criteria for NPD in DSM-IV, and two correspond to those for antisocial personality and histrionic personality disorders. The five remaining symptoms are unique, in the sense they have not been classified elsewhere: conflation of self with the nation or organisation; use of the royal ‘we’; an unshakable belief that a higher court (history or God) will provide vindication; restlessness, recklessness and impulsiveness; and moral rectitude that overrides practicalities, cost and outcome. In making the diagnosis of hubris syndrome in Brain we suggested that three or more of the 14 defining symptoms should be present of which at least one must be amongst the five components identified as unique. What progress are we making in understanding major recurrent failures in political leadership? The importance of hubris syndrome is that because the people who develop it
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hold powerful positions the effects of their hubris can be widespread and in some cases extremely damaging on people’s lives and livelihood. There is growing evidence that some of the intoxicants are neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin and substances produced in the endocrine system of the body like cortisol and testosterone. Major failures in political leadership are easier to study than in leaders of other professions because politicians write about themselves and there is extensive coverage of their lives in books, articles, interviews – both oral and visual. The recurrent features which have given rise to concern are well illustrated by the decision making of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, particularly in the period leading up to the 2003 Iraq War. Their abject failure to anticipate the consequences of the war and their belief that an invading force would be hailed as heroes were, in essence, hubristic. It is typical of hubris that there is a gross overestimation of the likely achievement and an underestimation of the risks and likelihood of failure. It is also often associated with a distinctive form of hubristic incompetence of which the appalling failure to plan for the aftermath of the invasion is the prime example. Not to anticipate the insurgency, to reduce the level of troops that needed to be involved in nation building, all contributed to a destabilisation and fragmentation of Iraq. This has come back to haunt us in the growth and advance of ISIS from Syria into Iraq and their claim to a caliphate in what they call the Levant where the objective is to go back in time to a simpler life under Sharia law. There is nothing unique, however, to politicians about developing hubris. In business life the global crisis of 2008 had within its contributing factors the actions of many senior investment bankers and Wall Street market manipulators. Personality research has already begun on figures in crucial positions such as Dick Fuld of Lehman Bros, Fred Goodwin at RBS and senior managers of HBOS. Where do you think that we should be focusing future research on this topic? Future research is a subject that is foremost in the activities of the Daedalus Trust which I and others founded for the purposes of conducting multidisciplinary research over at least a 10-year timescale. The Daedalus Trust does not have a specific research agenda of its own but it funds in part or in whole research projects that are first subject to peer review. We are not wedded to any one strand of research seeing merit in neurobiological research, psychological
research, even anthropological research. We believe risk is a central element in both our working life and our leisure. In Greek mythology, Daedalus advised his son Icarus to be bold enough to fly but not to fly so high that the sun’s heat would melt the wax of the wings he had fashioned for him. Thrilled by his initial aerobatic successes, Icarus ignored his father’s advice and paid the ultimate price – a sobering demonstration of unjustified self-confidence and the absence of caution. The Daedalus Trust wants to encourage interdisciplinary studies on the detrimental effects of exposure to power, and into the avoidance of reality and growth of a ‘yes’ culture that may often accompany such power whilst recognising the positive as well as the negative consequences of confident, charismatic leadership and the opportunities as well as the risks of what have been described as the ‘animal spirits’ that characterise markets, politics and other power relationships. Research is needed on how organisations can develop and maintain positive behavioural risk management practices, yet identify current policies and rules that encourage overly risky behaviour. Also whether formal rules to govern decision-making processes might reduce the risk of disastrous decisions while facilitating better and speedier decision making across the organisation. These are all issues of interest to your readers. How will delegates benefit from attending the forthcoming conference organised by the Daedalus Trust in conjunction with the BPS and the Royal Society of Medicine? We are delighted to work with BPS on what will be our third annual conference. In previous years we have worked with the RSM on the neuroscience of hubris and with Cambridge Judge Business School on leadership and hubris. This year the conference will focus on stress and hubris, and the conference has an excellent programme of speakers that I am very much looking forward to. Our keynote speaker will be Andy Haldane, the recently appointed chief economist of the Bank of England who has written very interestingly about behavioural economics. Adrian Furnham will speak on the psychology of leadership derailment and John Coates on the biology of workplace stress. We also have Jon Snow speaking on the role of
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Symptoms of hubris syndrome Proposed criteria for hubris syndrome, and their correspondence to features of cluster B personality disorders in DSM-IV 1
3 4 5
10 11 12 13
A narcissistic propensity to see their world primarily as an arena in which to exercise power and seek glory; NPD.6 A predisposition to take actions that seem likely to cast the individual in a good light— i.e. in order to enhance image; NPD.1 A disproportionate concern with image and presentation; NPD.3 A messianic manner of talking about current activities and a tendency to exaltation; NPD.2 An identification with the nation, or organisation to the extent that the individual regards his/her outlook and interests as identical; (unique) A tendency to speak in the third person or use the royal ‘we’; (unique) Excessive confidence in the individual’s own judgement and contempt for the advice or criticism of others; NPD.9 Exaggerated self-belief, bordering on a sense of omnipotence, in what they personally can achieve; NPD.1 and 2 combined A belief that rather than being accountable to the mundane court of colleagues or public opinion, the court to which they answer is history or God; NPD.3 An unshakable belief that in that court they will be vindicated; (unique) Loss of contact with reality; often associated with progressive isolation; APD 3 and 5 Restlessness, recklessness and impulsiveness; (unique) A tendency to allow their ‘broad vision’, about the moral rectitude of a proposed course, to obviate the need to consider practicality, cost or outcomes; (unique) Hubristic incompetence, where things go wrong because too much self-confidence has led the leader not to worry about the nuts and bolts of policy; HPD.5
APD = Anti-social personality disorder HPD = Histrionic personality disorder NPD = Narcissistic personality disorder
the media in encouraging charismatic leadership. Each delegate will benefit in their own individual way in terms of their experience and interest and relevance to their own particular role within occupational psychology and there is plenty of scope for participation for those attending. [Details of the conference to be held on 17 November in London can be found at tinyurl.com/pe28gsd]
ONE ON ONE
…with Catherine Loveday
‘I’m optimistic, some might say idealistic’ One place On top of Exmoor, with the sea and views of Wales on one side, sweeping purple moors on the other and, right by my feet, a bubbling river with steep waterfalls enticing me down the valley, through the woods, towards a little farmhouse selling cream teas. My mum was evacuated to a place near Porlock during the war and passed on her instant love of the place to her own parents who eventually retired there, providing all nine grandchildren with the perfect summer holiday home. Despite moving around a bit as a child, Exmoor was the one constant and we went there every school holiday. One children’s book I love so many children’s books and I have thoroughly enjoyed rediscovering many of the classics with my two sons, as well as devouring many new brilliant texts. However there was one book that, although not my favourite,
Catherine Loveday is a Principal Lecturer at the University of Westminster c.loveday@westminster. ac.uk
I genuinely believe changed my outlook on life – Pollyanna by E.H.Porter. I’m a little shy to admit it, given the pejorative way that the ‘Pollyanna principle’ is generally used, but it had a very powerful effect on the seven-year-old me. I can vividly remember trying to play the ‘glad game’ when things got difficult. My approach to life is optimistic, some might say idealistic, and I often wonder if the message of that book is at the root of that. One revelation I’m afraid I’m one of those evangelists who, having hated running all my life, has discovered that it is a fantastic, cheap and efficient exercise. A succession of events, and increasing evidence for a link between cardiovascular health and brain health, led me to seek out a personal trainer in the hope that I might finally find a form of exercise I could stick to. I told him that I was prepared to try anything except running. He accepted these protestations at first but over the next few weeks every bit of evidence pointed to it being the exercise that fitted my needs, so reluctantly I gave it a go. He appeared once a week for three months by which time I could
A special feature on nurturing the next generation, and much more... I Contribute: reach 50,000 colleagues, with something to suit all. See www.thepsychologist.org.uk/contribute or talk to the editor, Dr Jon Sutton, on firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 116 252 9573 I Comment: email the editor, the Leicester office, or tweet @psychmag. I To advertise: Reach a large and professional audience at bargain rates: see details on inside front cover.
comfortably run a mile without stopping. That was over five years ago and since then I have never wavered in my commitment… I run at least three times a week. One regret My biggest, and probably only major, regret is that I didn’t write up any papers from my PhD, despite being very proud of the work I’d done. I went straight into a full-time senior lectureship… by the time I got back to doing research again it just felt like it was too late. My regret is magnified by the fact that one of my supervisors, Alan Parkin, died suddenly a few years after I graduated. I can still hear his voice telling me that I mustn’t let academic admin jobs get in the way of publishing the work from my PhD!
band in which I usually played keyboards. I loved the song, which despite being 20 years old by then, felt refreshing and original, so I begged the guitarist of our band to tape all his albums for me and then moved on to all the films. I particularly loved Quadrophenia and when I went to watch them performing it last year I felt quite overwhelmed! One luxury My phone, with wifi or 3G. Who would have believed 20 years ago that you could carry a single gadget in your pocket which would allow you to communicate with almost anyone in almost any form, while also providing you with
One visit A visit to Clive Wearing with Barbara Wilson. I knew all about Clive from lectures, books, magazines and TV clips but to actually meet him, chat to him and sing at his piano with him was a very Exmoor – the one constant privileged thing. This was probably the moment a newspaper, a camera, a dynamic train timetable, when I realised that no a jukebox, a map of the whole amount of reading and world on any scale with a ‘you teaching can replace the are here’ blue dot, a guitar experience of spending time tuner, a scrabble board, with real people. The extent a dictionary, a torch etc. It of Clive’s amnesia was so palpable and was in such stark really is Star Trek and while I recognise the potential contrast to his intellect and negative impact a smartphone easy charm. can have on social interactions in the real world, I think it is One radio show Desert Island Discs. An absolute a wonderful testament to human endeavour and I would gift for someone who is miss mine terribly! fascinated by both memory and music: now that the One aim for The Psychologist whole archive is publicly and Research Digest available I will never have As the new(ish) Chair of the any excuse to be bored. Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee, One album I hope to work with the office Quadrophenia by The Who. and membership to make our My introduction to The Who was learning to play the violin offerings the daily authoritative voice of psychology! solo for Baba O’Riley for the
vol 27 no 11
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vol 27 no 11
This is a preview of the August 2014 issue of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. Society members can access...
Published on Oct 28, 2014
This is a preview of the August 2014 issue of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. Society members can access...