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The deadly sins Christian Jarrett examines why we are bad and how to be good, and introduces a special ‘sin week’ on the Research Digest blog
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big picture centre careers 138 new voices 148 looking back 150
career concepts in the 21st century 106 from brain scan to lesson plan 110 a social model of Asperger’s syndrome 114 interview with the Marzilliers 118
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Associate Editors Articles Vaughan Bell, Kate Cavanagh, Harriet Gross, Marc Jones, Rebecca Knibb, Charlie Lewis, Wendy Morgan, Tom Stafford, Miles Thomas, Monica Whitty, Barry Winter Conferences Sarah Haywood International Nigel Foreman, Asifa Majid Interviews Nigel Hunt, Lance Workman History of Psychology Julie Perks
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psychologist vol 24 no 2
letters history poster; mind wandering; W.H.R Rivers; sex differences; and more
news and digest 84 the government’s ‘Nudge Unit’; New Year Honours; tuition fees protests; London Lectures reports; selections from the Research Digest; and more media psychologists’ involvement in Strictly Come Dancing, with Lucy Maddox
The deadly sins Christian Jarrett examines the relevance of the idea of sin to modern life
Career concepts in the 21st century John Arnold reviews psychological and social definitions
From brain scan to lesson plan Paul A. Howard-Jones on using neuroscience in teaching and learning
Asperger’s syndrome – Difference or disorder? Louise Elliman writes from a social model of disability perspective
Psychology across the generations Sarah Marzillier in conversation with her father John Marzillier
book reviews 120 gifted lives; basics of psychotherapy; the psychology of sailing; and more society
international activities in the President’s column; free journals access; Professional Psychology Award; Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology conference report; and more
THE ISSUE ‘I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin’, said Joan of Arc. Unfortunately most of us are rather less pious, and the Seven Deadly Sins colour our lives. The red mist descends, we turn green with envy, blue and lustful thoughts creep into our minds. This month, we delve into the psychology of sin, with the latest theory and research. But we also give you seven evidence-based ways to avoid sin, and psychologists choose their new sins for the 21st century. All this leads up to a very special ‘sin week’ on the Society’s Research Digest blog (www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog), due to start on 7 February. Do visit the blog over those seven days as we have a real treat lined up: each day a psychologist (including yours truly) will be giving their own personal and professional ‘confession’. For a flavour, see John Sloboda’s take on wrath, for how he directed his anger over the invasion of Iraq towards more productive ends. Elsewhere there’s our second ‘big picture’ centrespread – do get in touch if your work lends itself to a striking image. Dr Jon Sutton (Managing Editor)
138 careers and psychologist appointments twin paths from psychology; the influence of upbringing on career interests; the latest jobs; and how to advertise new voices 148 a voyage of discovery with survivors of breast cancer with Caroline Muttitt in the latest of our series for budding writers looking back why studying our past is going global, with Alan Brock
one on one …with Margaret McAllister
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Poster points When I saw the front cover December’s issue of The Psychologist, my first thought was what a lovely poster it would make for the classroom wall, and so I was delighted when I found this was exactly what was included! My next thought having examined it more closely was wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Society would produce a close-up version focusing on the last, say, 20 years, where we could get an overview of the Society’s thoughts on the most important pieces of more contemporary research, which is so important in ensuring that our psychology teaching both at A-level and within the International Baccalaureate is up to date, cutting edge and ‘of the moment’! Would love to see this if anyone else thinks it would be a good idea. With many thanks again for the excellent work in The Psychologist. Amanda Wood Head of Psychology The Portsmouth Grammar School Portsmouth
In response to the letter entitled ‘History poster’ (January 2010), I would like to express gratitude (and regret) for all those concerned about the controversial nature of experiments involving animals,
especially the fact that there has been no mention of this specifically in the special issue about the 150 years of experimental psychology. Certainly this is truly a serious and meaningful area to discuss, and the letter has been a good first step in meeting this deficiency. Nevertheless, to expect in particular, the poster (also referred to as the ‘time chart’) to mention ethical issues concerning experiments involving animals (e.g. the monkeys in Harlow’s experiments) defeats the purpose of the poster in question. It is fairly clear from the poster that it aims to convey information about the 150 years of experimental psychology per se not the associated ethical issues or the strengths and limitations of experimental research, for example. From a technical perspective, the poster aims to describe or outline not
to analyse or evaluate the 150 years of experimental psychology. Of course the place for analysis and evaluation would be the pages of the magazine itself. In credit to the poster, I commend the producers for their efforts and innovativeness. The images have been very carefully thought out and the accompanying text is very concise yet informative. The poster has proven to be a fantastic resource to have in various psychology settings whether it’s a discussion tool in the psychology classroom (e.g. Is psychology a science?)
In praise of ‘mind wandering’
I appreciate The Psychologist selecting as the first item on the letters page the hardhitting critique offered by the Midlands Psychology Group of the current political enthusiasm for simplistic measures of happiness (‘Happiness – a distraction from economic fairness’, January 2011). I would like to comment on the linked subject of ‘National well-being and the wandering mind’ (News,
January 2011). This article reported research by Killingsworth and Gilbert on the basis of which the researchers concluded that ‘a human mind is a wandering mind and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind’. I do not dispute research indicating that activities that concentrate the attention on the here and now – playing sport and sexual activity are given as prime examples – bring their own particular brand of
happiness. But the idea that, overall, human beings would be happier without ‘mindwandering’ is surely nonsensical. An imaginary example: I am in the bar at the end of conference and I meet and chat with a man or woman I find extremely sexually attractive. Should I ‘wander’ back to the past and reflect on what I have learned from experience about my state of mind following a one-night
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stand? Should I ‘wander’ forward to the future, when my current partner will surely ask me how I spent the evening? No! If I wish to maximise my happiness, I must resist ‘wandering’ and stay in the present, focus on nothing other than the thrill of the attraction and way things are shaping up. A real-life example: I am getting dressed when I recall that I forgot to tell my partner that his sister phoned him
not permit the publication of every letter received. However, see www.thepsychologist.org.uk to contribute to our discussion forum (members only).
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or in the display area of a psychology department. Evidently, the poster has further shown its usefulness by generating debate amongst a critical readership. I am sure others like me look forward to more interesting posters in the future issues and yes, now the ‘Big picture’ in the centre spread surely is an eagerly anticipated part of The Psychologist.
by W.P. Tanner and J.A. Swets in Psychological Review. I hope that the next edition of the poster finds room between Solomon Asch’s group conformity and George Miller’s magical number for this towering contribution.
Bhupinder Kuwar Birmingham
Interesting as your wall chart on the history of experimental psychology is, I am astonished that you omitted one name: Hans Eysenck. I am of course biased, but his inclusion could be justified on two grounds. First, even his enemies would surely rank Eysenck as one of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. And, secondly and most importantly, he fostered a major research theme in experimental psychology; namely, the need to pay attention to the individual differences that are observed in all laboratory measured phenomena. Admittedly an embarrassment (or perceived source of error!) for general experimental psychologists, awareness of these variations goes back at least as far as Wundt, and any account of the history of the subject that fails to recognise the fact is seriously lacking.
The Psychologist and the authors of the poster on 150 years of experimental psychology have produced a splendid, clear and appealing document. It will surely stimulate interest among students and scientists. Yet many viewers will lament the omission of a favoured topic. Mine is the theory of signal detection, one of psychology’s most influential scientific discoveries. It has, for example, had a huge impact on medical science in the evaluation of diagnostic systems. Just one of its concepts, the ‘receiver operating characteristic’, returned over three quarters of a million entries in Google. The citations of its main textbook, Signal Detection Theory and Psychophysics by D. M. Green and J. A. Swets, are massive and widespread (its most recent citation is in the Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders). I would date the theory’s inception from 1953, with the publication of an article
yesterday evening while he was out. I make a mental note to send him a text once I am dressed. While I have been getting dressed my mind has ‘wandered’ continuously. I have been engaged in that ubiquitous human activity, so ordinary and yet so complicated to put into words, of remembering the past and projecting myself into the future with the memory of the past in mind. Our minds, it seems, are made for this. Unlike those of other species, our minds can range far and wide. For some of us, this itself is cause for happiness. Yes, to reflect on the past may evoke feelings of unhappiness. Yet not to do so is to rule out the possibility of
R. John Irwin Professor Emeritus of Psychology University of Auckland
Gordon Claridge Professor of Abnormal Psychology Department of Experimental Psychology University of Oxford
learning from experience, which the eminent psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion thought was the most important human capacity of all. To muse on the future may evoke anxiety or even dread. But it may equally engender the wonderful experience of joyful anticipation. And without the willingness to simply let the mind drift, would there be any great works of literature, poetry or music? The researchers state that their results indicate that ‘people, at least in the USA, generally mind wander a lot (46.9 per cent of the time, on average)’. My own equally subjective evaluation is that, given the human significance
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of mind wandering, a figure of 46.9 per cent is not in fact ‘a lot’. I would be interested to see an extension of this research into different populations, among people of different nationalities and among populations of artists and scientists engaged in creative and imaginative work, where I imagine figures well above 50 per cent may be found to be the norm. Maggie Turp Tavistock Society of Psychotherapists Reference Bion, W.R. (1962). Learning from experience. London: Heinemann.
Rivers distorted? My old friend Graham Richards, whose work I usually admire, has in his recent article (‘Loss of innocence in the Torres Straits’, December 2010) done rather less than justice to the Torres Straits Expedition. While he pays tribute to the researchers’, and especially to Rivers, the general tenor of his piece more or less rubbishes them. This culminates in the sentence ‘While academically sober, much of the text remained an entertaining “ripping yarn” from an outpost of Empire – Boy’s Own Psychology if you like’. At the time the members of the expedition took seriously Spencer’s view that ‘savages’ spend so much energy on the observation of nature, at which they excel, that they have none left for the higher mental processes. And that was the reason why the researchers confined their work to sensory functions. The supposed greater visual acuity of ‘savages’, then widely believed, was quite a separate issue; and Richards’ comments on this are misplaced. The article gloats over the many failures, notably apparatus that did not work or was unsuitable. Richards advises (Lesson 3) ‘Make sure the equipment works under field conditions before setting forth’. These days that is possible, and I have myself made preliminary trips to test equipment; but even if they had been able to anticipate the
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need, it would have been hard to do when the journey lasted well over a month. The fact that Richards was able to document the failures in detail is testimony to the honesty of the reporting. Rather than giving credit for this, Richards maligns Rivers by saying that he could ‘spin the write-up to maximum effect without outright dissembling’. As far as results are concerned, it is true that the members of the team dealing
with such topics as hearing and smell did not arrive at reliable findings. But it must be remembered that they had no previous experience of field studies to go on. However, it must be stressed that this did not apply to Rivers’ studies of perception. His work was meticulous and he had brilliantly innovative ideas that were highly influential. None of this is mentioned in the present article, though in
a previous chapter (Richards, 1998) there is one single revealing sentence: ‘When cross-cultural variations in colour-perception and sensitivity to visual illusions resurfaced after the Second World War, Rivers’ work invariably constituted the point of departure’ (p.154). Richards emphasises the racist orientation of the members of the expedition, and one cannot deny that they
were children of their time. Rivers himself later abandoned what he came to see as Spencer’s crude evolutionary theory; and in a piece probably written before the First World War declared that ‘…I have been able to detect no essential difference between Melanesia and Toda and those with whom I have been accustomed to mix in the life of our own society’ (Rivers, 1926, p.53 – posthumous).
No cloak of objectivity I hope that readers are not disappointed by the remarkable de-escalation in the Battle of the Sex Differences being staged for their entertainment. I myself am delighted that Simon Baron-Cohen (Letters, January 2011) now regards my criticisms of his research in a newly positive and appreciative light. I thank and admire him for his concessions, and for his engagement in the debate: It would have been much easier for him to ignore my book, and I am glad that he did not. I, in turn, have been thinking about Baron-Cohen’s continued claim and concern that my book ‘fuses politics with science’. This needs some unpacking since, as both Gina Rippon and Karen Moloney pointed out in December’s (2010) Forum, the two are not so easily segregated. We can all agree that political values should never, ever count as evidence for or against a particular hypothesis: political correctness and wishful thinking do not license us to ignore evidence. (For example, while we can all wish that we lived in a society in which people ‘never stereotype’ because ‘[s]tereotyping is wrong’, that desire does not allow us to ignore the substantial evidence that egalitarian beliefs do not infallibly protect against unintended bias.) Rather, again and again in my book, I show that the evidence scientists provide as support for essentialist claims is simply not as strong as they seem to think it is. But I make the case from science’s own standards, not political desire. Baron-Cohen’s counter-response alone provides two good examples. First, BaronCohen cites a small pilot functional neuroimaging study as evidence for sex differences (presumably not behavioural ones, since it found none) in ‘theory of mind’. Yet spurious results are a serious
issue in the neuroimaging literature, exacerbated by the pervasive practice of reporting sex differences based on small sample sizes (Fine, 2010). The newborn study provides a second example. I am happy to learn that the sequential presentation of the mobile and the face was successfully counter-balanced (although my understanding is that the standard is nonetheless for simultaneous presentation where possible, since this reduces sources of noise other than fatigue). However, given the minimal effort made to keep experimenters blind to the babies’ sex, I would dispute that the authors can offer an estimate of what percentage of trials were successfully blinded. Baron-Cohen underestimates the potential for bias when he doubts any effects on the experimental findings. It is well known that we do not have to be consciously aware of stimuli for them to affect our behaviour, and maternity rooms offer considerable scope for gender clues that can be processed unconsciously. That blinding is not normally done with a ‘good enough’ attitude argues against the claim that my criticism of the quality of the evidence is politically, rather than scientifically, based. Does that mean politics has no legitimate role in this topic? Philosopher of science Heather Douglas has argued that social values can safely play an indirect role in scientific reasoning, by ‘shifting the level of what counts as sufficient warrant for an empirical claim’ (Douglas, 2008, p.9). For example, we might demand a higher standard of evidence for the claim that a pill will keep a fatal disease at bay than for the claim it will make our hair glossy. The greater the social cost of potential error, the better the standard of evidence we require. My book extensively documents the
evidence that the gender stereotypes reinforced and legitimated by essentialist claims are not psychologically and socially inert, but have self-fulfilling effects that hinder progress towards greater equality. But even if you disagree that these social costs of potential error are legitimately taken into account in scientific reasoning, in fact, social values are not so easily avoided. As Douglas points out, in going about their work scientists must make choices – for example, in the methodologies they use to collect their data, and the background assumptions they depend on to interpret it (Douglas, 2007). And these choices build layer upon layer of potential error into the scientific ‘facts’ they ultimately produce. Importantly, which is the ‘better’ characterisation, or the ‘better’ background assumption is not, Douglas argues, solely a scientific issue. It is also a political one, when it is influenced by how you balance the social costs of potential error. For example, BaronCohen’s explanation that they chose to use a real face for the newborn study that (with inadequate blinding) could introduce bias, instead of a computerised one less likely to elicit newborn interest, reveals implicit values at work: Better to introduce the error of bias than the error of insensitivity. A white lab-coat is not a cloak of
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It is regrettable that a fine historian like Richards has seen fit to provide such a distorted account of the Cambridge Expedition to the Torres Straits. It was a remarkable pioneering effort to apply psychological methods in the then greatly challenging circumstances of a nonWestern culture. Gustav Jahoda University of Strathclyde Glasgow
References Richards, G. (1998). Getting a result: The Expedition’s psychological research 1898–1913. In A. Herle & S. Rouse (Eds.) Cambridge and the Torres Strait: Centenary essays on the 1898 anthropological expedition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rivers, W.H.R. (1926). Psychology and ethnology (G. Elliot Smith, Ed.). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
objectivity, and the very sorry history of the scientific investigation of sex differences reminds us not to forget that. By thinking about the relationship between politics and science in a more sophisticated way we can get a clearer picture of the landscape of barriers to disagreement – and then make better moves to navigate them.
We might demand a higher standard of evidence for the claim that a pill will keep a fatal disease at bay than for the claim it will make our hair glossy
Cordelia Fine Macquarie University and University of Melbourne References Douglas, H. (2007). Rejecting the ideal of value-free science. In H. Kincaid, J. Dupré & A. Wylie (Eds.) Value-free science? Ideals and illusions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Douglas, H. (2008). The role of values in expert reasoning. Public Affairs Quarterly, 22, 1–18. Fine, C. (2010). From scanner to sound bite: Issues in interpreting and reporting sex differences in the brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19, 280–283.
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FORUM WEB CHAT In the days following the Arizona shooting of a US congresswoman and 19 others at a Tucson supermarket, news sites and blogs were packed with comment on the interaction between mental illness, political rhetoric and violence. Sarah Palin’s tweet ‘Don’t retreat, instead – Reload!’ and her map with crosshairs over Arizona seemed unwise to say the least, but do such messages actually incite such extreme action? Or was Jared Lee Loughner simply a mental timebomb? (Why all three names? See tinyurl.com/4vafdf8) According to Peter Ditto, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, the debate echoes that which took place after the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting. US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was charged with gunning down 13 people and wounding 30 others, and speaking to Live Science (tinyurl.com/48t98zk) Ditto said ‘In that case, it was the right [in the political sense] that’s saying, “This guy did it, this was caused by jihadist motivation,” and the left was saying, “Oh, you know, he was just crazy.” So, that was a perfect example of the sort of mirror-image phenomenon.’ On Twitter, award-winning science blogger @edyong209 asked whether research had found a link between the type of rhetoric used by the US Right, and incited violence. The answer appeared to be that the phenomenon is so rare that it would be difficult to get good data. ‘Whether [demonising political language] causes somebody to act in some way is really a complicated one,’ Ditto said. ‘You're never going to get science to speak to whether some sort of violent political rhetoric caused this particular individual to shoot at the congresswoman.’ However, a recent study by University of Michigan researchers (tinyurl.com/22q5d3c), as yet unpublished, found that overall, watching a political ad with violent words (such as ‘fight for you’ instead of ‘work for you’) did little to change people's opinions on whether political violence could be justified. However, people who saw the violently worded ads who were already high in aggression became more accepting of the idea of political violence. For clinical psychologist and blogger Vaughan Bell, writing at Slate (tinyurl.com/27oa4ks), it is all too easy to invoke the image of a troubled mind. ‘The fact that mental illness is so often used to explain violent acts despite the evidence to the contrary almost certainly flows from how such cases are handled in the media. Numerous studies show that crimes by people with psychiatric problems are over-reported, usually with gross inaccuracies that give a false impression of risk. With this constant misrepresentation, it's not surprising that the public sees mental illness as an easy explanation for heartbreaking events.’ Others asked ‘could the system have prevented rampage?’ At tinyurl.com/4a8mv7e, Dewey Cornell, a forensic clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia, blamed years of cuts to mental health programs and treatment facilities. ‘The cost of prevention is minuscule,’ he said, ‘compared with the millions spent to prosecute and incarcerate one violent offender, not to mention the substantial costs sustained by the victims, many of whom will need mental health services that are not available in most communities.’ According to Cornell, ‘threat assessment is a practical, safe and efficient strategy’. Cornell closed by suggesting that free speech should not mean unlimited speech. ‘No one can create a "clear and present danger" by falsely shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater.…With all of the exaggeration, accusation and misinformation that pervades political discourse, is there a point at which shouting "Fire!"– or drawing cross hairs on a map – can present a new "clear and present danger"?’ Jon Sutton is Managing Editor of The Psychologist. Share your views by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Coming to terms with diversity Thirdly, as with many arguments regarding nonheterosexual sexuality, Ms Kapp’s letter focuses only on those forms approved by liberal societies. One might equally speak of the marginalisation of sexual behaviours that most people would not be prepared to characterise as anything other than deviant, where there would be few suggestions of support or sympathy for individuals ‘struggling under these circumstances’ to use Ms Kapp’s words. Psychology needs to address the issues raised by all forms of sexuality, rather than to cherry pick particular areas that are politically fashionable. It may well be that attempts to treat homosexuality are futile and best avoided. However, better arguments than those currently on offer are needed before this can be confidently asserted to be so. Josh Schwieso Department of Psychology University of the West of England Bristol
I was interested to see a letter in the December issue of The Psychologist suggesting that the clinical treatment of homosexuality might be considered unethical and possibly contrary to human rights codes. Further, that the best way of handling many of the problems that homosexuality poses has to do with wider acceptance of diversity. However, exactly the same arguments apply to the compulsory, or semi-compulsory, treatment of those suffering from such ‘disorders’ as dyslexia, and ADHD. As with homosexuality, the main problem lies in society’s unwillingness to come to terms with diversity and its quest to have people fit into a single mould. In this case an educational and employment system which, at best, fails to accept, nurture and utilise the wide huge range of talents that are available and which, if the truth were told, actively destroys many of them. A shocking report addressed to the government but drawing on studies conducted by psychologists – and which advocates individual treatment rather than institutional reform in this area – was published in Nature by none other than Beddington and others in 2008. One sees the same tendency toward individualisation of ‘treatment’ in discussions of what can be done to improve quality of life. In reality, quality of life in modern societies is mainly dependent on quality of working life. As Robert E. Lane (1991) and others have shown, this is driven down by market processes. The most important actions required to improve it are societal, not individual. It seems that it is not only government that is unwilling to hear such things. The thoughtways contributing to single-factor concepts of quality (now, it seems, even personality) and the individualisation of remediation and adjustment to a single norm seem to pervade society and our profession in a more than disturbing way. TIM SANDERS
The letter from Sylvia Kapp regarding the treatment of homosexual desire (December 2010) employs some questionable arguments. Firstly, Ms Kapp contrasts the pathological and deviant with the ‘broad spectrum of human [sexual] behaviour’. This is surely mistaken. The ‘broad spectrum of human behaviour’ includes a wide range of behaviours, from the undeniably socially acceptable to the undeniably unacceptable, and embracing all kinds of widespread criminal and pathological behaviours that most people would see as needing some sort of treatment, or amelioration. What is appropriate and desirable in human society is measured against ethical norms rather than statistical norms. Secondly, the fact that current treatments for a condition are ineffective is not normally seen as a reason for doing nothing or for accepting the condition as normal and desirable. Serious personality disorders seem to be resistant to cure, as opposed to amelioration through a variety of therapies, but there seems to be no suggestion from psychiatrists or clinical psychologists that searches for effective treatment should not continue, or that attempts to ameliorate such conditions should be abandoned.
John Raven Edinburgh References Beddington, J. Cooper, C.L., Field, J. et al. (2008). The mental wealth of nations. Nature, 455, 1057–1060. Lane, R.E. (1991). The market experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Blogging on brain and behaviour
Awards A wards 2010 20 010
Winner! W Wi inner! nner!
The British Psychological Society’s free Research Digest service: blog, email, Twitter and Facebook ‘An amazingly useful and interesting resource’ Ben Goldacre, The Guardian
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Nudging us to better health The first output from the government’s new Behavioural Insight Team (BIT), already nicknamed the ‘Nudge Unit’ by the media, was published on the last day of 2010 – a discussion paper on applying psychological principles to improve public health. The paper notes how health and lifestyle issues, including loneliness, are the major contributor to half of all UK deaths. ‘Strong-armed regulation is not the answer to rebalancing our diets, changing our desire to drink too much alcohol on a Friday night, or making our lives more active,’ it says, arguing instead that people can be encouraged to live more
healthily using cheaper and more effective ‘Nudge-style’ interventions, which emphasise prevention rather than cure. This general philosophy, referred to as ‘libertarian paternalism’ by the authors of Nudge, was enshrined in the coalition government’s agreement statement published last May: ‘Our government will be a much smarter one, shunning the bureaucratic levers of the past and finding intelligent ways to encourage, support and enable people to make better choices for themselves.’ The bulk of the new discussion paper is made up of case studies of this new
psychological approach as applied to smoking, organ donation, teenage pregnancy, alcohol, diet and weight, diabetes, food hygiene, physical activity and social care (see box opposite). For example, in relation to organ donation, the BIT is working with the DVLA to include a compulsory question about registering as an organ donor on the form for applying for, or renewing, a driving licence. Previously this question could be skipped, but now people must answer, even if only to say that they don’t want to decide now – an approach known as ‘prompted choice’. In relation to smoking, the
team is working with the high-street chemist Boots to exploit the principle of loss aversion by having smokers sign a contract in which they agree to pay a fine if tests show they have smoked. ‘It is clear to us from our work with the Department of Health, health professionals and businesses that there is a great deal of energy and enthusiasm for the new health agenda,’ the paper concludes. ‘If we can combine the insights from behavioural science with this enthusiasm and professional expertise, the benefits are likely to be very
New Year Honours for psychologists
Professor Sue Cox
Professor Paul Gilbert
Three British Psychological Society members were appointed OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the New Year Honours list: Professor Sue Cox, Professor Paul Gilbert, and Dr Jeune Guishard-Pine. Congratulations to them all. Professor Cox is Dean of Lancaster University Management School and received her honour for services to social science. Cox has overseen the expansion of the school over the last five years. ‘I am very proud and honoured to be awarded the OBE, especially as it was for services to social science,’ she said. ‘The important areas of social and management science are core strengths of Lancaster University, crucial for the UK economy and something which I believe strongly that we should be promoting.’ Professor Cox told The Psychologist: ‘I am very proud of my work as Dean of Lancaster University Management School and the opportunity to work in such a dynamic and successful University. I am currently working internationally to develop the University’s reputation.’ She added that she has had lots of support from other psychologists throughout her career. Professor Gilbert is a consultant clinical psychologist for Derbyshire Mental Health
Services NHS Trust, holds a chair in clinical psychology at the University of Derby and is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He received his honour for services to mental health care. He told us he’s delighted with the news although conscious that ‘there are many psychologists equally if not more deserving of recognition’. Gilbert’s first degree was in economics, and after switching to clinical psychology he pursued an evolutionary functional analytic approach to clinical problems. ‘This gave rise to our work on social hierarchies and the roles of feelings of inferiority, defeat and entrapment in mood disorders, social anxiety and psychosis,’ he said. ‘From there we worked on the roles of shame and self-criticism, noting that these permeated many mental health problems. In the last 15 years we have been working on the psychological interventions for shame and selfcriticism which led to our work on attachment, affiliation and compassion-focused therapy (CFT).’ Gilbert is planning a randomly controlled trial of the CFT approach. Another focus is to continue building the Compassionate Mind Foundation (www.compassionatemind.co.uk), which he founded: ‘We are trying to fund
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MORE HEALTHY ‘NUDGES’
substantial indeed – fewer lives lost, better value for money and better health.’ Anyone with examples of how psychology is being, or could be, applied to health is invited to e-mail the Behavioural Insight Team on email@example.com. gov.uk. David Halpern, director of the BIT and a psychology graduate, told us that economics and law are long-established disciplines in
Whitehall and Westminster, but there is a growing recognition of the importance of psychology. ‘Most policy challenges have a strong behavioural component – from health, to the green agenda, to economic growth and confidence. The creation of the Behavioural Insight Team within government is an acknowledgement of this importance,’ he said. ‘But it is a very small team, and we are very reliant on the wider academic and research community – we are always open to new evidence, ideas and support.’ A related development in December was the creation of
compassion-focused research, put as much free descriptive and training materials as we can on the site, and link compassion-focused therapists around the world.’ ‘In a time when psychology seems to be increasingly marginalised (especially in the NHS), as if it is a luxury, we psychologists must resist this and gain the confidence to point out that many of the world’s problems arise from how our minds work,’ Gilbert said. ‘Rage, vengeance, selfishness, exploitation, empathic failure, along with harnessing the motives for justice, fairness and compassion all come down to how our minds work in specific social contexts. We can be angels or demons. Psychology is no luxury.’ Dr Jeune Guishard-Pine is a consultant psychologist for the NHS and in private practice, and an Associate Fellow of the BPS [see also ‘One on one’, October 2010]. ‘I’m thrilled,’ she told us. ‘I was shocked that it was an OBE [for services to families] rather than an MBE, so I feel really proud of myself.’ Guishard-Pine first became serious about supporting disadvantaged children through education when she was aged just 16 – helping them find a route out of persistent poverty, and finding ways of giving vulnerable children their
a dedicated Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge, tasked with informing government policy on assisting people to behave more healthily. The Unit is headed by Chartered Health Psychologist, Professor Theresa Marteau. The Behavioural Insight Team also played a key role in the Giving Green Paper published by the government just before Christmas. This is a public consultation on ways to encourage social action – volunteering, philanthropy and the provision of mutual social support. CJ I For the report, see tinyurl.com/29s2rp2
childhood back. ‘These were the reasons why I decided to be a child psychologist,’ she said. ‘I am proud of my track record of achieving these aims and that the contribution of child Dr Jeune Guishard-Pine psychology to wider society is being noticed in this way.’ Looking to the future, Guishard-Pine is currently fund-raising to conduct research into the viability of developing an accredited counselling skills course for foster carers, ‘because their contribution to children’s wellbeing goes largely unrecognised in a formal way.’ Guishard-Pine’s personal aim is to become a Fellow of the BPS. ‘I hope it’s only a rumour,’ she said, ‘that it would be harder for me to demonstrate that I can be accepted as a Fellow of the BPS than being awarded an OBE! Only time will tell…’ CJ
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The UK charity Teens and Toddlers aims to reduce teenage pregnancies through a programme in which teenagers spend 20 weeks mentoring a toddler. The idea is that the experience brings home the magnitude of the responsibility of bringing up a child. The Welsh Assembly Government and the charity Drinkaware are developing a year-long ad campaign to communicate accurate information about student drinking norms to students. Past research has shown that students consistently overestimate how much their peers drink. Research by Collin Payne at the New Mexico State University College of Business found that shoppers bought more fruit and vegetables when trolleys were designed with a dedicated compartment labelled as being for fruit and veg. The Behavioural Insight Team and Department of Health have formed a partnership with LazyTown, an Icelandic TV show with a healthy superhero character, Sportacus, who motivates children to eat healthily and be more active. When a supermarket chain in Iceland branded their fruit and veg as ‘Sports Candy’, the name used in LazyTown, sales went up by 22 per cent. Blood monitoring can be challenging for children with diabetes and their parents. A collaboration between Bayer Healthcare and Nintendo has led to a Didget device in which children earn game points for consenting to pin-prick bloodsugar tests. A new food hygiene rating scheme aims to make information on restaurant hygiene as salient and accessible as possible, for example by encouraging hygiene-based restaurant league tables and the voluntary use of rating stickers on entrances and windows.
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Tuition fees protest – lessons for crowd The student tuition fees protest that took place in London on are the Metropolitan Police not moving more rapidly toward 9 December raised numerous questions about the psychology modes of policing that reflect the latest evidence and theory of policing large crowds. As the demonstrations descended into given that this provides the formal framework for Association violence, dozens of people were injured, national monuments of Chief Police Officers guidance on policing crowds?’ and government buildings were vandalised and multiple arrests Another psychological angle relates to the importance of were made. An objective appraisal of the events was hard to come by, as the Metropolitan Police were subsequently criticised for being both too soft and too brutal by commentators from different ends of the political spectrum. As we reported last February, the latest government advice to the police on how to manage crowds is underpinned by psychological theory. This advice is contained in a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in 2009, and subsequently incorporated into official training manuals. The elaborated social identity model (ESIM), developed by Professor Steve Reicher at the University of St Andrews, Dr John Drury at Sussex University and Dr Clifford Stott at the University of Liverpool, explains how protest situations are characterised by a shifting dynamic of social influence, whereby the peaceful majority can come to identify either with a violent minority or with the police. Which way their allegiance falls depends in part on whether police action is perceived as legitimate. Stott tells The Psychologist that research he’s conducted with Reicher and Drury shows how a general norm of nonviolence in a crowd can change radically in response to indiscriminate policing, which is what he believes happened in Parliament Square on 9 December. ‘You cannot understand the events in Parliament Square in isolation from previous protests. But kettling [the police tactic of containing a large crowd in a confined area], by definition, is extremely indiscriminate and it changes people’s perception of the legitimacy of the police,’ Stott says. ‘My question is why ‘…kettling, by definition, is extremely indiscriminate’
Amygdala size and social networks People who belong to a larger and/or more complex social network tend to have larger amygdala (Nature Neuroscience: tinyurl.com/28rgcwm). The amygdala is a bilateral structure, located in the medial temporal lobes, that is involved in emotional learning. The researchers, led by Kevin Bickart at Boston University School of Medicine, said their finding was ‘consistent with the hypothesis that the primate amygdala evolved, in part, under the pressure of increasingly complex social life’. Past research has shown that nonhuman primate species that mix in larger social groups tend to have increased amygdala volume compared with species that mix in smaller social groups. But this investigation of 58 healthy human adults is reportedly the first time that amygdala
volume has been shown to be correlated with social network size within a single species. The main finding was specific. Amygdala volume did not correlate with life satisfaction or perceived social support. Moreover, other subcortical structures, including the hippocampus, were investigated, but their volume did not correlate with social network size or complexity. A whole-brain surface analysis also failed to reveal any equivalent correlations. When a more lenient threshold was used, three further frontotemporal regions that correlated with network size were identified, two of which have dense connections with the amygdala. ‘Humans are inherently social animals…’ the researchers said. ‘A large amygdala might enable us to more
effectively identify, learn about and recognise socioemotional cues in conspecifics, allowing us to develop complex strategies to cooperate and compete.’ Not everyone was impressed by the findings. The US-based Neurocritic blogger baulked at the study’s failure to find (at conventional significance thresholds) further brain structures that correlated with social network size. ‘Are we supposed to believe that only one area of the brain is involved in maintaining social networks? I think not,’ he wrote. He also raised the issue of clinical case studies, including those with amygdala damage: ‘Anecdotal evidence suggests [these patients] can have close ties with their families and can even become more social after their brain injuries,’ he said. CJ
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communication before, during and after large protests. Stott argues that the police need to understand that there is a history behind any large demonstration, with memories of previous police action influencing crowd behaviour. The police need to manage this ongoing historical dynamic that feeds into demonstrators’ perceptions of legitimacy. They also need an improved capability to make dynamic, real-time risk assessments, and to respond differentially to different sections of the crowd, such that those provoking conflict can be undermined, whilst at the same time allowing the peaceful majority to continue protesting. Does this mean there’s a need for more intelligence and more informers, as some commentators called for? ‘No, we have seen from the collapse of the Ratcliffe trials [concerning a plan by climate protestors to shut down a power station], covert intelligence for these kinds of protest is not the way,’ Stott says. ‘It’s about liaising openly, understanding and facilitating peaceful protest, which is a cornerstone of democracy. But the police don’t always have that capability because of a lack of commitment at a strategic level.’ For Stott, the key juncture on 9 December was when crowds of people started pouring into Parliament Square and the presence of fences (apparently left in place by the local authority) around the grass led to crushing and pushing. ‘This was when the police needed to communicate with the crowd about what was required, necessary and legitimate. But that didn’t happen – there was simply no communication with the crowd. Inevitably, the police were forced to move toward containment. But even if that were necessary, they should have had elements of the police ready to communicate during the containment itself, to assist in dynamic risk assessment, and straight away they should have started working with the crowd to work out who was and wasn’t a risk. The vast bulk of the crowd were students who simply wanted to protest and then go home.’ Stott is also critical of the police use of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook, which if deployed appropriately could play an important role in real-time communication and ongoing liaison. The first tweet sent by police on the day reportedly said, ‘Anyone who engages in crime will be arrested.’ Stott says the use of Twitter is to be welcomed but that the problem is with message content. ‘The police need people in place with the relevant competencies to use social media to best effect – to communicate at crucial junctures the legitimacy of police action and the illegitimacy of violent action. We can only hope that over time the police learn to accommodate the recommendations flowing from our research more fully.’ CJ I HMIC report: tinyurl.com/4dz9947; Dr Clifford Stott’s report to HMIC: www.liv.ac.uk/Psychology/staff/cstott.html
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RESEARCH FUNDING NEWS The ESRC has published its Delivery Plan for 2011 to 2015. This sets out the programme for social science research in the UK over the next five years, and includes information on strategic priorities, how these will be delivered, cross-council themes, and economic and societal impact. Within the plan, changes to some of the ESRC’s existing funding schemes are announced: I The Small Grants, Postdoctoral Fellowships and Mid-Career Development Fellowships schemes terminate on 1 February 2011. I An increase in the lower threshold for standard grants to £200,000. Applications for standard grants up to £200,000 will only be accepted until 1 February 2011. I A new Future Research Leaders Scheme for early career researchers will be introduced in spring 2011. I http://bit.ly/hCIk35 The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has announced the competitions for funding for: I Programme Grants for Applied Research – applied health research including health services research; public health research; behavioural research; economic evaluations; and modelling. Competition 10: Application submission deadline 14 March 2011 Competition 11: Application submission deadline 17 October 2011 Competition 12: Application submission deadline 19 March 2012 http://bit.ly/gbEGKp I Programme Development Grants – to provide evidence to improve health outcomes in England; tackle areas of high priority or need; and to provide stable funding to support the long-term development of top quality applied research groups in the NHS. Competition 5: Application submission deadline 28 March 2011 Competition 6: Application submission deadline 10 October 2011 http://bit.ly/dQ4AyW Crohn’s and Colitis UK invite applications for their Living with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) Research Awards 2011. Funding is provided for research into the social and psychological aspects of IBD and its impact on patients and families. Projects are usually funded for up to two years and grants do not normally exceed £120,000 for any one project. The closing date for applications is 25 March 2011. I http://bit.ly/ifeLhv The Richard Benjamin Memorial Trust has grants available to support innovative research in social and occupational/organisation psychology that has the potential to make a difference to families, organisations, communities and to people’s lives. The grants are targeted at early career researchers – those with up to seven years’ postdoctoral research experience. Full details on how to make an application and information on previously funded projects can be found on the Trust’s website. Applications deadline is 30 April 2011. I http://www.richardbenjamintrust.co.uk The British Academy International Partnerships – Africa, the Middle East and South Asia scheme supports the development of ongoing links between research centres or institutions, within the humanities and social sciences in the UK and in selected countries in Africa, the Middle East or South Asia. Applications close on 30 March 2011. I http://bit.ly/9eMKdK
For more, see www.bps.org.uk/funds Funding bodies should e-mail news to Elizabeth Beech on firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion
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No voodoo, just can- and of brain scanning NO THANKS, I JUST IMAGINED EATING SOME If your snack-based new year’s resolutions are already failing, you could try applying the lessons from a new study by psychologists at Carnegie Mellon University. Carey Morewedge and his colleagues showed that imagining repeatedly eating a specific food led participants to subsequently eat less of that food when given the opportunity (Science: tinyurl.com/5vgn7gu). Across five experiments, Morewedge’s team found that participants who imagined eating 30 chocolate sweets subsequently ate fewer sweets from a bowl than control participants who imagined eating just three of them, or control participants who imagined inserting 30 quarters into a laundry machine. The effect was specific – imagining eating the chocolates did nothing to reduce participants’ subsequent consumption of cheese. The researchers think the effect occurs via habituation. After imagining eating lots of cheese cubes, participants worked less hard at a simple computer game in which they could earn points in return for cheese. Yet their self-reported liking of cheese remained unchanged by the imagination task. In other words, the participants’ motivational drive to obtain the food was attenuated even while their liking was unaffected, which is indicative of habituation. ‘The results show that top-down processes can enact habituation in the absence of pre-ingestive sensory stimulation,’ the researchers said. ‘The difference between actual experience and mental representations of experience may be smaller than previously assumed.’ CJ I For more ways to be good, see Christian Jarrett’s feature on the psychology of sin on p.98
The brain scanner – has it provided a window into the mind as so many claimed it would? Or is it little more than an expensive toy? Brain-imaging labs attract generous grants and their output is published in high-impact journals. But in 2009 a paper surfaced prior to publication (tinyurl.com/34mp83u; see News, February 2009) in which Ed Vul and his colleagues claimed that numerous neuroimaging studies in social neuroscience had deployed iffy statistical methods, leading them to identify ‘voodoo correlations’ between psychological states and regions of brain activity. The charge caused a storm of controversy and the paper, when it finally came out in print, had been renamed with a less provocative, voodoo-free title. Now the dust has settled, the same journal, Perspectives in Psychological Science, has published a special issue on what brain imaging can and can’t tell us.
In the lead article, Gregory Miller of the University of Illinois, himself a user of brain-imaging techniques, is highly critical of ‘naive’ reductionists who claim that psychological phenomena are somehow based in brain processes or located in particular neural structures. ‘Functions do not have a location,’ he writes, adding later, with reference to a particular study on voters: ‘Trust decisions and political attitudes do not occur in the brain. Decisions, feelings, perceptions, delusions, memories do not have a spatial location. We image brain events… We do not image, and cannot localise in space, psychological constructs.’ Miller reminds readers that brainimaging studies are only able to provide correlations between brain activity and psychological processes and that how each affects the other, if at all, remains largely mysterious. He also reminds us that although many researchers act as though the neural is somehow more
NO-TRICKERY PLACEBO To harness the power of the placebo effect with an inert pill, doctors must take the morally dubious step of tricking their patients into thinking the pill has an active ingredient. Or must they? The first study of its kind, led by Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard Medical School, suggests not, at least not when dealing with patients with irritable bowel syndrome (PLOS One: tinyurl.com/2et68az).
Kaptchuk and his colleagues randomly allocated 37 patients with IBS to receive two inert pills twice daily and 43 to act as no-treatment controls. The former group were told the pills had no active ingredient and were further informed that: ‘placebo pills, something like sugar pills, have been shown in rigorous clinical testing to produce significant mind–body self-healing
processes’. Before the group allocation, all patients were talked through the benefits and power of the placebo effect by a physician, including the fact that taking the pills is critical for the effect to work. The researchers took care to ensure that patient–physician contact time and quality was similar across the two groups. Amazingly, the
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can’t-do fundamental than the psychological, there are many examples of the causal direction apparently flowing the other way – for instance, psychotherapy has been shown to trigger various brain changes. In her contribution, Diane Beck of the University of Illinois discusses the allure and popularity of brain-imaging data among the media and general public. Part of the story is likely to be the appeal of colourful blobs-on-brain images and the fact that neural correlates are somehow seen as lending biological credibility to behavioural results. Ultimately Beck says that responsibility lies with individual researchers not to allow the media to make unsubstantiated claims based on mere neural correlates. ‘We should be careful not to encourage portrayals of our research as explaining a behaviour or condition when it does not,’ she writes. ‘In short, every time we
placebo group, even though they knew they were taking inert pills, reported improved symptoms relative to the control group, both at the 11-day mid-point and at the study conclusion after 21 days. The size of this difference was described by the researchers as clinically meaningful (and comparable to active drug treatments), reaching an effect size of .79, which is
allow the press to mischaracterise our results or overstate our conclusions, we run the risk of damaging the reputation of our entire field.’ Other contributors defended the value of neuroimaging research to psychological inquiry. Brian Gonsalves and Neal Cohen at the University of Illinois gave the example of brain-imaging memory studies, which consistently reveal activity in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC), an area usually associated with attentional
conventionally considered large. The placebo group also showed greater increases in quality-of-life measures. ‘Our results suggest that the placebo response is not necessarily neutralized when placebos are administered openly,’ the researchers said. ‘Thus our study points to a potential novel strategy that might allow the ethical use of placebos consistent with
evidence-based medicine.’ The strength of the results are undermined by the small sample size, the short study length and the possibility that patients were giving the researchers the answers they wanted (a double-blind paradigm was a logical impossibility). For these reasons, the researchers said their work could be considered as a ‘proof-of-principle pilot study’. CJ
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processes. This finding has prompted searches for the specific memory-based factors associated with PPC activity, with retrieval success and the perception of memory ‘oldness’ emerging as relevant. ‘These ideas have led to a great deal more theorising about the interactions of memory and attention,’ Gonsalves and Cohen write, ‘tested not only with neuroimaging methods but in neuropsychological studies as well.’ For neuroimaging to become more productive, Russell Poldrack at the University of Texas argues that psychologists need to develop a comprehensive and agreed ‘cognitive ontology’ – that is, ‘the component operations that comprise mental function’. To this end, Poldrack and his colleagues have established a collaborative, online tool, the Cognitive Atlas (www.cognitiveatlas.org). Once established, Poldrack believes the Cognitive Atlas will help neuroimagers identify examples of ‘selective associations’, which is when activity in a given neural structure is associated ‘with only one putative cognitive process’, thus allowing the inference that ‘the reality of this process has been established’. If researchers can predict, based on neuroimaging data, whether a particular mental process was engaged, then, Poldrack says, that would be evidence for a selective association. Poldrack concludes that using ‘detailed ontologies along with large-scale datamining approaches, it may finally be possible to determine the joints at which the brain carves the mind.’ CJ I The special issue, which is at tinyurl.com/32zlynr, also includes a contribution from Jean Decety and John Cacioppo and another from Arthur Shimamura
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ANOREXIA SELF-HELP A new guided self-help intervention for carers of people with anorexia is being trialled across England. Expert Carers Helping Others (ECHO) is designed to address the stress of caring for someone with anorexia, which can be harmful for both parties. The intervention involves a book and five DVDs with support provided by volunteer ‘coaches’ (former patients or carers) who are trained in family therapy and motivational interviewing. The project is led by Professor Janet Treasure, director of the Eating Disorders Service at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. I See tinyurl.com/2wxlqvf
SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE The fledgling Society for Social Neuroscience held its inaugural meeting in November. Two months later, the organisation’s first president, John Cacioppo, and board member Jean Decety (both are psychologists based at the University of Chicago) published a landmark article on the state of the subdiscipline: ‘Challenges and opportunities in social neuroscience’ (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: tinyurl.com/36ht92t). ‘Social neuroscience is the interdisciplinary academic field devoted to understanding how biological systems implement social processes and behavior, and how these social structures and processes impact the brain and biology,’ the Society says on its website (s4sn.org). ‘The mission of the society is to serve as an international, interdisciplinary, distributed gathering place to advance and foster scientific training, research, and applications in the field for the sake of humankind.’
JUSTICE TOGETHER The mental health charity Together has joined forces with criminal justice and health agencies to produce a new mental health guide on how to work effectively with the disproportionate number of people with mental health problems in the criminal justice system. Linda Bryant, a forensic psychologist at Together, is the lead author and heads up the charity’s Forensic Mental Health Practitioner Service. She comments: ‘The identification and signposting of people with mental health problems into the right care and treatment is possible at any stage of their journey through the criminal justice system, and the people working within it have a key role to play in this process.’ I To order a copy of the guide, see www.together-uk.org
LONDON LECTURES Christian Jarrett and Abi Millar report from the Society’s one-day student event The Society’s London Lectures continue to entice psychology’s next generation. In December, over 800 students packed out Kensington Town Hall with demand so high that the venue could have been filled twice over. Rhiannon Turner of Leeds University opened the event with an overview of the contact hypothesis – Gordon Allport’s idea that meaningful contact between social groups reduces prejudice. Turner’s research has shown that the benefits of contact are mediated by reduced anxiety and increased self-disclosure between members of different groups. It’s as if, by mixing with each other, we learn that we’re not so different after all. A problem when attempting to apply the contact hypothesis to real situations is that segregation remains rife and intergroup contact isn’t always possible. To overcome this, Turner presented fascinating findings showing that prejudice can be reduced by extended contact (having a friend who has a friend from an outgroup) and even by merely imagining a positive encounter with an outgroup member. Turner is currently looking at how the effects of these different forms of contact interact – for example, perhaps experiencing extended or imagined contact first could increase the likelihood
that face-to-face contact will be beneficial. Next up, Rosa Hoekstra of the Open University (standing in for Simon BaronCohen) focused on the causes of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). She discussed the assumption, common until the 1970s, that autism was caused by ‘refrigerator mothers’, describing how since then a wealth of twin studies helped demonstrate the high heritability of autism, undermining the notion that responsibility lay with parenting style. She stressed, however, that there is no single genetic cause for autism, with almost every chromosome containing at least one gene implicated in some people with ASD. Autism is a highly variable condition, with strong variation both in the types of symptoms that are present and in the severity of these symptoms. Some of this variability may be explained by different genes being involved in different people with autism. Hoekstra explained that the characteristics of autism can be understood as a continuum of traits that are, to some extent, also seen in the general population. People with a clinical autism spectrum diagnosis have an extreme accentuation of traits found in milder form in people without a diagnosis. Just like clinical autism, Hoekstra discussed evidence that these
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milder traits in the general population are also strongly influenced by genes. In the Q&A session that followed, Hoekstra discussed the complications involved in finding a ‘cure’ for this complex range of disorders. Because autism is so variable, it is unlikely that researchers will find one overall cause and discover a miracle cure. Instead researchers are trying to find interventions that cater for specific subgroups of people on the autism spectrum. She also mentioned that people with autism, especially those at the more high-functioning end of the spectrum, are not necessarily looking to be cured. Their functioning may be different from the norm, but autism is part of who they are. They may seek help to improve their social interaction or communication abilities, but they don’t want all autism characteristics to be wiped out of their personality.. Sports psychologist Dave Shaw of Lancaster University began the post-lunch slot with candour (‘I keep marrying women who don’t like sport’ he lamented), before listing several indicators that psychology plays a key part in sport – top athletes are similar to each other physiologically; someone who breaks a world record is unlikely to break another; and having won one gold medal,
most athletes are unlikely to win more (people like Steve Redgrave are the exception). Or, Shaw said, consider a classic study from 1980, in which Rejeski and Ribisl instructed two groups to exercise at the same intensity, one of them for 20 minutes, the other for 30 minutes. When both groups were interrupted at 20 minutes, the participants who had expected another 10 minutes were less tired, even though they’d been working at the same intensity. A striking example of mental attitude having a physical effect. Shaw also dealt with the question of whether it’s all just common sense. For example, he highlighted the contrasting approaches of different football managers including Fergie’s hair-dryer treatment and Eriksson’s cool, reserved style. ‘Totally different ways of motivating players…that’s why we need to do the research [to find out what really works best],’ Shaw said. Attachment was next on the agenda as John Oates of the Open University described some cutting-edge research showing how genes and the environment interact to affect attachment style. He focused on the gene that codes for the D4 dopamine receptor: DRD4 (dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in motivation and reward). Most people have a version of this gene with a section that repeats four times and codes for efficient D4 dopamine receptors, whereas about one in five people have a version in which the same section repeats seven times, producing less efficient receptors. Crucially, the DRD4 gene variant a person has appears to interact in complex ways with the parenting style to which they are exposed. It transpires that children with the longer 7-repeat DRD4 gene variant are less likely, than bearers of the shorter DRD4 variant, to respond to bad parenting by developing a disorganised attachment style, characterised by, among other things: apprehension towards their parent and contradictory behaviour, smiling one minute, crying the next. Paradoxically, when parenting is good, the longer, 7-repeat variant of the DRD4 gene is actually a risk factor - in this case, children with this gene variant are more likely to develop a disorganised attachment style. What are the mechanisms underlying these effects? ‘This is theoretical because this is very recent research,’ Oates warned. The D4 type of dopamine receptors, he explained, are concentrated in the mesolimbic pathway, which is involved in vigilance and attention regulation towards
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rewards. In children with the 7-repeat version of the DRD4 gene, the mesolimbic pathway will be less easily activated. ‘This means,’ Oates said, ‘that [these] infants are likely to be less easily entrained by positive, rewarding stimuli in the environment and there will be reduced opportunities for their sustained engagement and interaction with their parents.’ The day ended with a delightful series of gasp-inducing visual illusions presented by Peter Thompson of York University (e.g. the hollow mask illusion, see: tinyurl.com/cos3as). As well as debunking the fashion myth that horizontal stripes make you look fatter (Thompson’s counter-intuitive research shows the opposite is true), these illusions teach us an important lesson about the mind. ‘Your visual system is trying to deal with too much stuff, which is coming in too fast’ Thompson said. ‘So we have to have tricks, we have to have short-cuts, we have to make up what we see.’ It’s these ‘top-down’ processes that affect perception and lead to the experience of visual illusions. ‘Every time you wake up in the morning, you open your eyes and you see the world…in colour, in three dimensions and that is an absolute miracle,’ Thomson said, ‘because your visual system may play all these tricks, but by God, it really does work.’
WELL-BEING The Office for National Statistics is developing new measures of national wellbeing (see News, January). According to a new website the ONS has launched, they ‘want to consult with people, organisations and business across the UK, as well as central and local government, to ask what matters most in people’s lives and what is important for measuring the nation’s wellbeing’. I To contribute to the consultation, see www.ons.gov.uk/well-being
SOCIAL SCIENCE SPACE A new community site for those with an interest in social science has been launched by Sage Publications. The website ‘brings together social scientists to explore, share and shape the big issues in social science’. There are blog articles from key players in social science (including psychologist David Canter), a forum to share discussion, as well as a resource centre with free videos, reports and slides that support these discussions. I See www.socialsciencespace.com
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Ancestral thinking Psychologists have shown previously that thinking about our own mortality - ‘where we’re going’ - prompts us to shore up our cultural world view and engage in self-esteem boosting activities. Little researched until now, by contrast, are the psychological effects of thinking about where we came from – our ancestors. Anecdotally, there’s reason to believe that such thoughts are beneficial. Why else the public fascination with genealogy and programmes like the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Now Peter Fischer and his colleagues at the Universities of Graz, Berlin and Munich have shown that thinking about our ancestors boosts our performance on intelligence tests - what they’ve dubbed ‘the ancestor effect’. ‘Normally, our ancestors managed to overcome a multitude of personal and society problems, such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines,’ the researchers said. ‘So, when we think about them, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities.’ An initial study involved 80 undergrads spending five minutes thinking about either their 15-century ancestors, their great-grandparents or a recent shopping trip. Afterwards, those students in the two ancestor conditions were more confident about their likely performance in future exams, an effect that seemed to be mediated by their feeling more in control of their lives. Three further studies showed that thinking or writing about their recent or distant ancestors led students to actually perform better on a range of intelligence tests, including verbal and spatial tasks (in one test, students who thought about their distant ancestors scored an average of 14 out of 16, compared with an average of 10 out of 16 among controls). In the European Journal The ancestor benefit was mediated partly of Social Psychology by students attempting more answers – what the researchers called having a ‘promotion orientation’. These benefits weren’t displayed by students in control conditions that involved writing about themselves or about close friends. Moreover, the ancestor effect exerted its benefit even when students were asked to think about negative aspects of their ancestors. ‘We showed that an easy reminder about our ancestors can significantly increase intellectual performance,’ the researchers said. ‘Hence, whenever people are in a situation where intellectual performance is extraordinarily important, for example in exams or job interviews, they have an easy technique to increase their success.’ Fischer and his colleagues emphasised their research is at an exploratory phase. Future work is needed to find out what other benefits thinking of ancestors might have, and also to uncover other possible mediating factors, which they speculated might have to do with ‘processes of social identity, family cohesion, self-regulation or norm activation elicited by increased ancestor salience.’
Volunteers and sampling issues In the February issue of Personality and Individual Differences Psychology has a serious problem. You may have heard about its over-dependence on WEIRD participants – that is, those from Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich Democracies. More specifically, countless psychology studies involve undergraduate students, particularly psychology undergrads. Apart from the obvious fact that this limits the generalisability of the findings, Edward Witt and his colleagues provide evidence in a new paper for two further problems, this time involving self-selection biases. Just over 500 Michigan State University undergrads (75 per cent were female) had the option, at a time of their choosing during the spring 2010 semester, to volunteer either for an online personality study, or a face-to-face version. The data collection was always arranged for Wednesdays at 12.30pm to control for time of day/week effects. Also, the same personality survey was administered by computer in the same way in both experiment types, it’s just that in the faceto-face version it was made clear that the students had to attend the research lab, and an experimenter would be present. Just 30 per cent of the sample opted for the face-toface version. Predictably enough, these folk tended to score more highly on extraversion. The effect size was small (d = –.26) but statistically significant. With regard to the more specific personality traits, the students who chose the face-to-face
version were also more altruistic and less cautious. What about choice of semester week? As you might expect, it was the more conscientious students who opted for dates earlier in the semester (r = –.20). What’s more, men were far more likely to volunteer later in the semester, even after controlling for average personality difference between the sexes. For example, 18 per cent of week one participants were male compared with 52 per cent in the final, 13th, week. In other words, the kind of people who volunteer for research will likely vary according to the time of semester and the mode of data collection. Imagine you used false negative feedback on a cognitive task to explore effects on confidence and performance. Participants tested at the start of semester, who are typically more conscientious and motivated, are likely to be affected in a different way than participants who volunteer later in the semester. This isn’t the first time that self-selection biases have been reported in psychology. A 2007 study, for example, suggested that people who volunteer for a ‘prison study’ are likely to score higher than average on aggressiveness and social dominance, thus challenging the generalisability of Zimbardo’s seminal work. However, despite the occasional study highlighting these effects, there seems to be little enthusiasm in the social psychological
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Beneficial effects of political scandal? In the December issue of Political Psychology community to do much about it. So what to do? The specific issues raised in the current study could be addressed by sampling throughout a semester and replicating effects using different data collection methods. ‘Many papers based on college students make reference to the real world implications of their findings for phenomena like aggression, basic cognitive processes, prejudice, and mental health,’ the researchers said. ‘Nonetheless, the use of convenience samples places limitations on the kinds of inferences drawn from research. In the end, we strongly endorse the idea that psychological science will be improved as researchers pay increased attention to the attributes of the participants in their studies.’
Barely a day goes by without some political scandal or other splashed across the papers. Critics argue this obsession with tittle-tattle distracts the electorate from more important policy issues. ‘…a fiercely independent media is the guarantor of democracy,’ Will Hutton wrote in 2000, before warning that the British media’s obsession with scandal ‘paradoxically, may be beginning to endanger it [democracy]’. A new study by Beth Miller at the University of MissouriKansas City challenges the assumption that scandal is a distraction. Every two days, she presented 413 undergrads with a newspaper article containing information about a policy position held by a mayoral candidate. Then, 1 to 14 days later, she tested the students’ memory for the candidate’s
policies. The important twist was that for half the participants, the fourth of five newspaper articles, rather than being about a policy, was about a scandal involving the candidate – in particular, his confession to an extra-marital affair. The assumption of many would be that this story would distract participants from the drier, but arguably more important, detail of the politician’s policies. Similarly, in psychological terms, it might be argued that the scandalous information would displace the earlier memory traces associated with policies, especially since negative information is known to be particularly memorable and attention-grabbing. An alternative prediction, however, is that the salience of
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. Visit the blog for full coverage including references and links, additional current reports, an archive, comment and more. Subscribe by RSS or e-mail at www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog Become a fan at www.facebook.com/researchdigest Awards A wards 2010 20 010
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the scandal would actually benefit all other memories associated with the politician. This is consistent with the idea that memory is an ‘associative network’ made up of interconnected nodes. By this account, activation of one node – the one representing scandal – will spill over and raise the activation in all related nodes, thus benefiting participants’ memory for the mayoral candidate’s policies. Miller found that more policy-related information was recalled by participants who read about the scandal, consistent with the associativememory account. Moreover, compared with participants in the scandal condition who forgot about it (the scandal), those who remembered it were also more likely to remember policy information – reinforcing the idea that the scandal memory had benefited policy memories. As you might expect, although the scandal benefited participants’ memory for policies, it also negatively affected the participants’ evaluation of the candidate. ‘While these results do not suggest that candidates can engage in scandalous activities without consequence, they do suggest that the depiction of the public as blind to anything but scandalous information seems to be an exaggeration,’ Miller said. ‘The results…suggest that exposure to scandalous information…may have beneficial side-effects not previously explored.’
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Strictly: It takes you Lucy Maddox on psychologists’ involvement in the reality dance show hese are dark days, and I am not commenting on the shabby politics of T the coalition. Many of us are getting up
and coming home in the gloom: a bleak existence with the consequences of winter blues for many. Clues for improving our mood might lie in some recent psychology media involvement. Pamela Stephenson, actress-turnedpsychologist and recent star of Strictly Come Dancing, stated the case for the mood benefits of dancing, in The Guardian on 21 December: ‘…it’s healthy to get fit, to laugh, to do something you enjoy, to dance… Dancing is the physical expression of our emotional selves, and personally I have found it to be a lifeaffirming path to a new-found style of happiness.’ Stephenson was candid about the enjoyment she got from dancing with her professional dance partner: ‘Early on, my husband did delicately inquire if the dance moves engendered physical arousal… I admitted they did.’ She also spoke of the ‘fun, laughter and physical challenges’ that the intensive dancing regime gave her. Most poignant, I thought, were her reflections on the contrast between her career and the life she briefly led whilst in training for the show. ‘Over the years, the job I do has taken its toll on me… Mental health professionals are on the frontline of the war against human anguish, angst and antisocial behaviour. However welltrained and capable we are, it is impossible to be a receptacle for the shadow side of humanity with absolute impunity.’ Another psychologist who retrained from a theatrical background is exprofessional dancer and Reader in Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, Peter Lovatt, aka Dr Dance, who appeared on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two. Lovatt founded the Dance
The Media page is coordinated by the Society’s Media and Press Committee, with the aim of
Psychology Laboratory at the university (see www.dancedrdance.com), where he says ‘we’re trying to understand dance and dancers using psychological methods’. Lovatt agrees with Stephenson that dancing can make us happy, but only in certain conditions. ‘Studies have shown that mood changes after recreational dance… but not all people and not all types of dance… We need three conditions for mood and health benefits to occur: the dance needs to involve simple and repetitive movements, the dancer’s heart rate needs to be slightly above resting and the dance needs to be non-competitive.’ Strictly is highly competitive. Lovatt thinks the reason most celebrities enjoy it so much is because often their day job and personal identity is not related to dancing. ‘For most contestants it’s a diversion away from their real lives.’ Lovatt contrasted this to the elevated levels of stress hormone found in competitive ballroom dancers: ‘Rohleder in 2007 found competitions raised cortisol because they posed a threat to social identity. Competitive dancers define themselves as a great dancer… Pamela Stephenson went in with an amazing frame of mind of getting a break from her work.’ Lovatt also warns that how happy a dance can make us depends on the style: ‘…more freestyle dances where you can’t get it wrong make people happy. Classical ballet doesn’t necessarily make people feel great…it involves trying for a practically unachievable ideal.’ More
promoting and discussing psychology in the media. If you would like to contribute, please contact the ‘Media’
page coordinating editor, Fiona Jones (Chair, Media and Press Committee), on email@example.com
people report improved mood after ‘relaxed styles of dancing with a social element, like swing dancing or ceilidh’. Lovatt thinks people like Strictly because ‘it makes dance incredibly accessible. It shows something we could all do and of course there’s fantasy and romance.’ Lovatt works extensively with the media for a similar motivation of increasing accessibility: ‘communicating psychology to the broadest possible audience’. His experience of being an expert commentator on Strictly: It Takes Two was ‘very interesting…they are very prescriptive in style…we were only allowed to say positive things about the celebrities’. Nonetheless Lovatt found it enjoyable, ‘I loved the experience… I was surprised how glammed up everybody was… it was fun.’ Lovatt’s advice about working with the media is that ‘it’s useful…but it depends on what your aims are…you can’t compromise your message for entertainment and it’s a fine line… As a psychologist you’ve got to be true to your self and your profession but deliver the message quickly.’ Ultimately Lovatt likes ‘having to present information and change your message according to the complexity of the audience. And before I was a psychologist I was a professional dancer, so I love being in the make-up room and getting in front of the lights for five minutes.’ Media psychologist Brian Young of the University of Exeter commented in The Observer on an additional role of reality shows such as Strictly in creating social bonds. Young’s research categorises people into different social identities based on their viewing, including the ‘TVangelists’ most likely to watch reality shows like Strictly, and tweet or text their views. ‘The categories I am identifying are…like social identities’, said Young. ‘It is a little like deciding what you wear.’ In this era of Facebook and Twitter, sharing our television habits has become another way of describing who we are to people around us and recognising similarities. Stephenson described having only one regret from Strictly: ‘I never got to dance my Argentine tango… But…it’s good to have one dream left unrealised; it keeps hope alive.’ Perhaps we can take this as further advice on getting through the last days of winter. Ditch your new year resolutions and get your dancing shoes.
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4–6 May Marriott Hotel Glasgow 4 May @ 7pm ‘Welcome to Glasgow’ Civic drinks reception at the City Chambers
Full programme available to download Earlybird rates still apply
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Six years ago, a viral infection called herpes encephalitis damaged Claire’s brain. The toll on her hippocampus, where memories are formed and retrieved, left her unable to store the sights, sounds and feel of an experience. Enter the SenseCam, developed by Microsoft and used by neuropsychologists to help amnesiacs like Claire. Worn around Claire’s neck, the small camera automatically takes photos with a wide-angle lens when it senses movement or a change in lighting. Claire can download the sequences and review them, allowing her to bond with friends over shared experiences and stimulating her remaining episodic memory. Dr Catherine Loveday (University of Westminster), one of Claire’s neuropsychologists, says: ‘A tiny detail amongst hundreds of images – a gesture, a sign on a wall – can trigger Claire’s memory and spark a real emotional reaction.’ Martin Conway, a Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Leeds University who also works with Claire, calls these ‘Proustian moments’, after Marcel Proust’s description of memory as a ‘rope let down from heaven to draw one up from the abyss of unbeing’. Using fMRI, Dr Loveday and colleagues have shown increased brain activation when Claire tries to remember experiences previously reviewed on SenseCam. According
to Dr Loveday, there’s so much more scope: ‘as an effective memory prosthesis for the elderly, in providing objective material for therapeutic interventions (e.g. insight, CBT), or simply for “lifelogging”.’
Stamford, England, June. Photos by Claire’s SenseCam. Does your work lend itself to a striking image? Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire’s life, 9:53–10:42
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The deadly sins Christian Jarrett examines the relevance of the idea of sin to modern life, and introduces a special ‘sin week’ on the Society’s Research Digest blog
he economy crippled by bankers’ avarice. Tiger Woods’ career sidelined after he played away. Sixty per cent of us predicted to be obese by 2050. Greed, Lust and Gluttony. Twelve people shot dead in Cumbria last June. A Korean baby left to starve to death last March as her parents browsed the internet. Pop superstar George Michael jailed for driving while high on drugs: ‘I am sorry that my pride has prevented me from seeking help before now,’ he said. Wrath, Sloth and Pride. What about Envy? Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, recently extended his 515ft yacht by a few more feet ensuring its length exceeds that of the boat owned by Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich. It seems the Seven Deadly Sins are as relevant today as when Pope Gregory the Great listed them in the late sixth century.
So what does contemporary psychological science have to say about these ancient vices? Envy, pride and wrath are today recognised as emotions with evolutionarily adaptive functions. Envy and pride propel us to seek status and resources, whilst gluttony, lust and greed are related to the unconstrained consumption of food, sex and power. Wrath ensues if our pursuit of any of these ends is thwarted or threatened. Meanwhile, sloth is like the mirroropposite of the other sins – a lack of motivation and drive. A unifying theme underlying all the sins is insufficient selfcontrol, a failure to rein in the animal within.
Greed It may be ugly, but the dogged pursuit of wealth and power is part of human nature. ‘Across cultures, research has revealed
The dogged pursuit of wealth and power is part of human nature
about a dozen different kinds of values and goals that all people prioritise to one extent or another,’ says social-personality psychologist Tim Kasser of Knox College, Illinois. ‘Among these are values for selfenhancement and materialism, which include specific aims for power, wealth, money, status and image.’ According to Kasser, it’s when people particularly prioritise these values that they are likely to behave in a greedy fashion. For example, he says: ‘People who claim that materialistic goals are important compete rather than cooperate, endorse a Machiavellian stance towards interpersonal relationships, and care less about other people’s inner experience.’ Materialistic values are fostered by living in a competitive culture that inculcates the idea that wealth and status are necessary to be happy. A revealing 2009 survey by Lara Aknin of hundreds of North Americans found that they massively underestimated the happiness of people on lower levels of income than their own. Kathleen Vohs at Carlson School of Management has shown that the mere thought of money (primed through the unscrambling of moneyrelated sentences) led people to be more selfish and to opt to give less money to charity. More recently, research showed that the sight of money reduced the time people spent savouring a chunk of chocolate. Another way that materialistic values are triggered is through psychological insecurity. ‘Growing up poor or with non-nurturant mothers conduces toward such values,’ says Kasser. ‘And one study showed that thinking about one’s own death – the ultimate in insecurity for many – increased materialistic values and how greedily people behaved in a game.’ Logic suggests that greed can be tackled by confronting its two main causes: competitive and materialistic cultures and psychological insecurity. According to Kasser, we can also seek to promote those values that research has shown oppose materialism and selfenhancement. ‘These values, which focus on aims such as growing as a person, love and friendship, and benefiting the community,’ he says, ‘can act as a counter-weight to greed,
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and are known to promote more helpful behaviours in and of themselves.’
Envy If greed motivates us to obtain wealth and status, then envy is the emotion that’s triggered when another person achieves what we want, and we think they don’t quite deserve it. ‘Envy, when it is not in its benign form [akin to admiration], occurs when we lack another’s superior quality, achievement or possession, and either desire it or wish that the other lacked it,’ says Richard Smith at the University of Kentucky, the Feeling ill-will is a key feature of the emotion of envy author of Envy: Theory and Research. ‘When we envy, we feel inferior, longing, resentment, and ill-will toward the another feel as if they are beyond our advantaged person.’ This latter, hostile reach and relevant to our own standing, feature of envy is particularly key to the that we are most likely to feel envious. emotion. The envious person hopes for Consider a 1997 study by Penelope those they envy to lose their status or Lockwood and Ziva Kunda at the wealth and, if that happens, envy gives University of Waterloo. They presented way to schadenfreude. undergrads with a profile of a ‘superstar’ It’s important to distinguish envy graduate. For undergrads on their first from the related but separate emotion of year, who still had time to scale such jealousy. ‘Jealousy occurs when a person scholarly heights, the case-study was fears losing an important relationship inspiring, but for final-year undergrads, with another person (or object) to a rival,’ for whom their academic fate was largely says Smith. ‘When we feel jealous, we feel sealed, the high-flying graduate provoked fear and anxiety about a possible loss, and feelings of inadequacy – a catalyst for suspiciousness and anger over possible envy. betrayal.’ Apart from their obvious As for coping with envy, a 1988 study semantic similarities, envy and jealousy based on a survey of Psychology Today are easily confused because it is precisely readers suggested that attempts to ignore those people we envy who are most likely the object of envy and to focus on one’s to attract the attentions of the individuals own goals helped reduce envy, whilst selfwe fear losing. bolstering did not. However, once envy Studies have uncovered some of the had kicked in, self-bolstering (e.g. factors involved in the provocation of reminding yourself of your good envy. Similarity is key. Although we may qualities) was associated with an envious have principled objections, few of us are person experiencing fewer negative personally affronted by the riches and feelings. achievements of, say, the royal family, but Pride if a close colleague, friend or neighbour Whereas the success and status of others gains the promotion or sports car we can provoke envy, pride is what we feel always wanted, well then envy is likely to when the success and status are our own. follow. John Schaubroeck and Simon Lam Pride, like envy is a human universal, and showed this similarity principle at play in is another of the sins considered by a 2004 field study in which unpromoted psychology to be an emotion. Darwin tellers at a Hong Kong bank were most categorised it alongside states such as envious of promoted colleagues who vanity and suspicion as a ‘complex they’d earlier rated as more similar to emotion’. He also anticipated themselves. More envious employees contemporary research showing that the also performed better over the next five expression of pride – head held high, arms months, supporting the idea that envy raised – is recognised universally across has an adaptive function. cultures and by children as young as four. Other important factors in envy are In 2008 Jessica Tracy at the University of control and self-relevance. It’s when the British Columbia and David Matsumoto at coveted achievements or possessions of
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San Francisco State University studied congenitally blind Olympic judo competitors and found that they too showed pride in this way, even though they can’t ever have seen a pride display by anyone else. So what is pride for? Whereas envy, triggered by the success of others, is aversive, pride is rewarding and thereby encourages us to persevere for long-term gain – in a sense, helping to overcome sloth. In turn, the expression of pride signals to others that we are deserving of status. Lisa Williams and David DeSteno at Northeastern University tested this idea in a 2009 study in which they provoked pride in participants by giving them false, overwhelmingly positive feedback on their performance at a mental rotation exercise. In a subsequent group version of the task, participants who felt more pride (thanks to the earlier feedback) were rated as more liked by other group members. Further evidence for the powerful link between pride and impressions of status comes from a 2009 study by Jessica Tracy and Azim Shariff, which used the Implicit Association Test to show that people subconsciously associate pictures of people displaying pride, more than other emotions, with words signifying high status. A further study by Tracy that’s in press showed that people perceive a person displaying pride as high status, even when that perception is incongruous with contextual cues, such as that the person is homeless. Similarly, participants were more likely to hire fictional job candidates who displayed pride as opposed to shame, even if the latter had stronger CVs. So why is pride considered a sin? Psychologists distinguish between authentic pride, which tends to follow success which a person attributes to their own effort, and hubristic pride, which usually follows success attributed to ability. It’s the hubristic variety that most likely led to pride being seen as a sin. ‘Hubristic pride seems to be “bad for people” in a number of ways,’ says Tracy. ‘It’s associated with all kinds of problematic personality traits – such as aggression, antisocial behaviour, anxiety, shame and narcissism. In a recent series of studies, we found that the experience of hubristic pride directly promotes prejudice against out-group members. People high in hubristic pride also tend not to be well liked by others.’ One theory is that hubristic pride may have evolved as a way to cheat others into thinking you’re deserving of status,
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without the need for long-term effort and genuine achievement. Tracy says that although hubristic pride can be pleasurable because it’s associated with positive feelings about the self, it tends to stem from a sense of insecurity or defensiveness. ‘If people can experience authentic pride instead – perhaps by focusing on genuine, specific accomplishments – they are likely to be better off,’ she says. ‘Authentic pride is still a highly pleasurable experience, and is associated with a range of adaptive and prosocial personality traits and behaviours. In fact, the experience of authentic pride directly promotes empathy for out-group members and consequently out-group favouritism (the reverse of prejudice).’
Wrath Anger is one the core emotions alongside sadness, fear, disgust and happiness. Its survival function is clear. When a threat to ourselves or our kin is perceived, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system intensifies, the heart races, adrenaline flows, as the body prepares to confront the situation. Anger can be triggered by the other sins, such as intense envy and threatened pride. The problem today is that anger seems to be provoked all too easily – road rage, air rage, computer rage are part of modern life. In 2008 the Mental Health Foundation published a report ‘Boiling Point’ calling attention to the links between anger and poor mental and physical health (including heart disease and depression). The report also included a survey that suggested most people believe anger is on the rise. ‘Anger is strange,’ says Bill Winogron, a clinical psychologist and co-author of CALM – an anger management intervention used in UK and Canadian prisons (see tinyurl.com/2uqan3w). ‘It is very commonly experienced, and disturbs interpersonal relations more than any other emotion. And yet it has no diagnostic code in the mental health “bible”, and receives a small fraction of the research attention of anxiety and depression. Most who experience it don’t want to change it, yet anger episodes mostly target the angry person’s loved ones in their homes.’ Winogron, who now works for the S4Potential consultancy, says that interventions like CALM, which are based on cognitive-behavioural principles, work well. These involve learning how to reduce bodily arousal, social skills like assertiveness and, ‘most importantly of all, changing the thoughts and beliefs that focus on perceiving threat, evaluating and
culturally determined. Although blaming others, the need to oppose monogamy is widely practised, or at least and aggress against perceived sources of aspired to, in mainstream Western culture, threat, and revenge.’ However, Winogron polygamy is also found globally, from notes that psychology still has much to Mormon societies in the United States to learn about problem anger, including: Islamic nations like Sudan, where it has ‘factors that aid or block anger’s been actively encouraged by the President conversion to aggression, the best as a way to increase the population. evidence-based treatments [a limitation Polygamy is also practised by some of our of the existing evidence base is that it’s primate cousins, especially the bonobo largely based on volunteer participants], chimpanzee. and the role of genetics and other Harder to explain from an causative factors’. evolutionary perspective, perhaps, is Anger isn’t all bad. When suitably why human lust has come to be relatively controlled, there’s evidence that a certain controlled. Part of the answer comes from amount of anger can be useful, at least the proposal by anthropologist Helen in business contexts. In a 2006 study Fisher at Rutgers University and others Marwan Sinaceur and Larissa Tiedens that lust forms one of three distinct at INSEAD found that students in a rolesubtypes of reproduction-related playing context who’d been trained to emotion, the other two being passionate feign anger achieved more concessions love (as in ‘being in love’ or infatuated from their partners. Other research with another), and companionate love. suggests this benefit arises because angry According to this account, lust is the people are construed by others as tough basic driver for seeking sexual negotiators. However, the effect of anger gratification, passionate love helps us could depend on the cultural context. focus our efforts on pursuing a particular A study published last year by Hajo Adam mate, and companionate love encourages and colleagues, also at INSEAD, found long-term bonding, which is beneficial for that expressing anger led to improved raising and supporting offspring. Without negotiation outcomes for participants passionate love to hailing from a Western focus our lustful American background, but desires, we’d be actually backfired when “The problem today is forever in a spin, deployed by participants that anger seems to be pursuing potential with an East Asian ancestry. provoked all too easily” mates in all Lust directions. As with anger, the Companionate love, evolutionary function of lust meanwhile, helps shift is obvious. Our drive to mate ensures the our priorities from procreation to continuation of the species. As with several ensuring the survival of our existing of the other sins, lust becomes a problem offspring. only when it is unconstrained or aroused ‘Lust is associated with who gets to by inappropriate targets. In part this is pass on their DNA into tomorrow,’ says
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Seven evidence-based ways to be good A common theme uniting the majority of the deadly sins is selfcontrol, or more specifically, a lack of it. Whether it’s giving in to the temptation of sexual infidelity or to the slothful failure to make an effort now for tomorrow’s gain, many of the sins reflect a form of mental submission. Fortunately, psychology research is uncovering a growing number of ways to help us boost our self-control, thereby overcoming many of the sins. Learn healthier habits. Behaviours that are performed automatically, triggered by environmental prompts such as cookie jars and TV remotes, are known as habits, and one secret to becoming less sinful is to acquire healthier ones. This means repeatedly performing a desirable behaviour (e.g. going for a run) at the same time or in the same place, every week or every day. Well, that’s the theory. Surprisingly little research has actually been conducted on habit formation as it unfolds. Phillippa Lally at UCL’s Health Behaviour Unit bucked the trend last year when she and her colleagues asked 96 participants to keep a daily diary of their success at forming a new healthy habit. The main finding was that the average time it took for a new habit to reach peak automaticity was 66 days – far longer than previous estimates. The good news was that a single missed day had little long-term impact on successful habit formation, although repeated omissions did have a cumulative detrimental effect on the maximum automaticity that was reached. Have an energy drink. Roy Baumeister and his collaborators including Matthew Gailliot of Florida State University claim that willpower has a physiological substrate – namely, blood glucose level. In a series of studies published in 2007 they showed that acts of selfcontrol reduce people’s glucose levels and that, in turn, diminished blood glucose is associated with weaker performance on subsequent self-control tasks. Most importantly for the purpose of being less sinful, they also showed that a high-glucose energy drink can recharge willpower allowing people to be more altruistic. For example, participants who took longer over a psychology exam, and whose energy levels were therefore more depleted, went on to offer less money to charity and less help to a classmate who’d been evicted, unless, that is, they’d had a high-glucose lemonade drink after the exam. By contrast, a low-glucose placebo drink had no such beneficial effect on helping behaviour. Use your inner voice. We’re all familiar with the little voice in our head that tells us not to be naughty. A 2010 study by researchers at the Toronto Laboratory for Social Neuroscience claimed to show this voice really does play a useful role in self-control. Alexa Tullett’s team instructed participants to say the word ‘computer’ repeatedly with their inner voice thereby preventing it from uttering encouraging words of restraint. Doing this compromised the participants’ performance at a concurrent lab test of self-control (the Go/No Go task, which involves withholding key responses on a minority of trials) far more than did a secondary task that merely involved drawing circles. The researchers concluded: ‘[T]his study provides evidence that when we tell ourselves to "keep going" on the treadmill, or when we count to ten during an argument, we may be helping ourselves to successfully overcome our impulses in favour of goals like keeping fit, and preserving a relationship.' Practise self-control. Willpower is like a muscle – the more you train it, the more powerful it will become, thus helping you to resist the Seven Deadly Sins. For example, in a study published last year Mark Muraven at the University of Albany had a subset of participants spend two weeks practising acts of self-control, such as resisting
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eating naughty food. These participants subsequently excelled at a lab measure of self-control compared with their own baseline performance. By contrast, no such improvement was observed among control participants who merely spent the same time completing maths problems (a task which, although onerous, Muraven claims doesn’t depend on the ability to resist impulses) or writing about any incidental acts of self-control they’d achieved. This latter condition was included to ensure that it is specifically the practice of self-control that is beneficial not merely spending time thinking about self-control. Also, participants in all groups were told that their activity would boost self-control, so as to rule out mere expectancy effects. Clench your muscles. We tend to associate acts of willpower with people clenching their jaw or fists. Another study published last year showed that this muscular tension isn’t merely a side-effect of willpower, it actually helps bolster our self-control. Across five studies, Iris Hung at the National University of Singapore and Aparna Labroo at the Booth School of Business showed that various forms of muscle flexion, from fist clenching to calf muscle tightening helped participants to endure pain now for later benefit (e.g. take more time to read a distressing news story about a disaster in Haiti, which in turn led them to give money to a relevant charity in line with how much the story mattered to them); and to resist shortterm gain (e.g. snack food) in order to fulfil a long-term gain of better health. Muscle flexing only worked when participants were already motivated. For example, if longterm health was unimportant to them, muscle flexing made no difference. So flexing appears to augment willpower rather than changing motivations and attitudes. Muscle clenching was also only effective when performed at the same time as an act of will. Form if-then plans. When your willpower levels have been drained by an earlier test, that’s when you’re most vulnerable to temptation. One way to protect yourself is to form so-called ‘if-then’ plans. For example, imagine that you wanted to avoid getting angry the next time your boss is overly critical, you could form the plan ‘if my boss says my work is amateurish I will recall the time that I won an award’ – a thought which will hopefully have a soothing effect. The effects of so-called ‘implementation intentions’ have been researched in-depth by Peter Gollwitzer at the University of Konstanz. In one recent study he tested students’ ability to persevere with anagram tasks after they’d resisted laughing while watching comedy clips, thus leaving their willpower depleted. Those who followed the vague plan ‘I will find as many solutions as possible’ performed poorly on the anagram tasks as expected. However, willpower depletion had no such adverse effect on students who followed the additional, more detailed plan: ‘…And if I have solved one anagram, then I will immediately start work on the next!’. Distract yourself. If at first you don’t succeed, cheat. In Walter Mischel’s classic studies of young children’s self-control, he found that the kids able to resist cookies and marshmallows for longer periods tended to adopt distraction strategies, such as covering their eyes or singing to themselves. Even our chimpanzee cousins are adept at this, although admittedly in their case it’s for greater gain rather than to avoid sin. In a 2007 study Michael Beran at Georgia State University showed that chimps played with toys as a way to distract themselves from a self-filling jar of sweets. The longer they waited before grabbing the jar, the more sweets they’d get. If the jar was out of reach, they didn’t play with the toys so much, which suggests they really were using the toys as a form of distraction.
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Fisher. ‘It leads to eternal life in the sense that you’re spreading your seed on into eternity. So lust is extremely important, and every single culture in the world has rules about who you can and can’t have sex with. In fact, my guess is that this is one of the first rules that humankind developed because it is so important to reproduction and the future.’ How can lust be curtailed? ‘You can castrate a man,’ Fisher observes dryly, ‘which is usually effective.’ In the USA there has also been an increase in Alcoholics Anonymousstyle interventions for sex addiction, no doubt in response to the frequent media reports of sex-addicted celebrities. The effectiveness or appropriateness of these groups remains to be seen.
Gluttony It’s tempting to think the amount that people eat and drink is simply about personal choice. This assumption is reflected in the idea of too much consumption being a sin – gluttony, a woeful lack of temperance born out of poor character. However, psychologists today roundly reject the idea that over-
consumption can simply be attributed to reported afterwards feeling no more sated a person’s free choice. In fact, so taboo is any than controls, nor did they estimate they suggestion of a link between obesity and had consumed any more than the controls gluttony that one British psychologist we estimated they had. spoke to wished to remain anonymous lest ‘Eating behaviour is not a hand-tohis comments be misinterpreted. ‘Obesity mouth pursuit for the modern human,’ for the vast majority is not a choice and the says the UK psychologist we consulted. implicit social discrimination society ‘Eating is implicitly and explicitly attributes to obese individuals would intertwined with cognitive, social, challenge any assumption individual, that an individual would developmental choose to achieve a high and biological “every single culture in weight status,’ he said. perspectives the world has rules about ‘Gluttony may be a deadly and legitimate who you can and can’t sin, obesity most certainly explanations. have sex with” is not.’ Explanations for According to modern obesity must research the amount we appreciate the quality, consume is heavily influenced by quantity and potential availability of environmental factors including food particular foods in various yet individually availability, price and portion size – specific environments, matched with the collectively known as ‘obesogenic’ factors. individual's perceptions of In one particularly striking study, Brian appropriateness, time availability, hunger Wansink at Cornell University found that levels and social pressures.’ people consumed 73 per cent more soup Indeed, the influence of social than controls when drinking from bowls pressures on weight gain was revealed that unbeknown to them automatically by a 2007 study by James Fowler at the refilled. And yet these same participants University of California in San Diego and
Seven new deadly sins for the 21st century Truthiness. ‘Inspired by Steven Colbert, truthiness is “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true”,’ says Richard Smith at the University of Kentucky. ‘I would call it a sin because its consequences for others, for the community, and for the world are staggering, maybe even apocalyptic. Because of it, we may be going to hell in a hand basket. Consider rejecting the scientific evidence for global warming and its causes. However, it would be a curious addition to the seven deadly sins because, arguably, truthiness may be a pathway to the belief in god, depending on one's perspective, of course. It is probably related to sloth, in the sense that one may not be bothered to collect and evaluate the evidence for the validity of one’s gut feelings.’ Iphonophilia: ‘The sin of constantly checking one's smartphone for emails/texts/facebook updates, while in conversation with people in the real world,’ says Jessica Tracy at the University of British Columbia. ‘I'm a big fan of these high-tech devices and how much easier they make our lives, but they certainly raise challenges for live interpersonal interactions.’ Narcissistic myopia: Tim Kasser at Knox College, Illinois, says this is the tendency to be short-sighted and self-centred, ‘taking whatever
one wants now and forgetting that future generations of humans rely on the current generation to leave them a habitable world’. Entitlement: ‘This is the absolutist requirement that all one’s egocentric demands for “justice” not only be fully met, but also be of keen interest to the rest of the world, no matter how trivial and inconsequential the injustices, and irrespective of how great the redress of perceived inequity has been to-date,’ says Bill Winogron at S4Potential. ‘It’s a close cousin to what American psychologist Albert Ellis more wittily named "Musturbation".’ Mobile abuse: ‘Shouting into your cell phone on the bus, or as the curtain is going up at the opera – that happened to me,’ says Helen Fisher at Rutgers University. ‘I mean where are these people coming from, where is their brain? It is extreme narcissism.’ Excessive debt: ‘The financial crisis we're in originated partly because of people running up huge debts they couldn't pay,’ says Roy Baumeister of Florida State University. ‘Politicians and governments also spend beyond their means, creating debts that future generations will be stuck with. If people were mindful of avoiding the sin of excessive debt, both they and society would be better off.’ Insert your sin here: We have one vacant spot. Celebrity worship? Saying ‘to be honest’ all the time, or using ‘that’s just me, I speak my mind’ as an excuse for failing to observe basic social conventions? Have your say by e-mailing email@example.com with your letter for publication, or post at www.psychforum.org.uk.
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Nicholas Christakis at the Harvard Medical School. They used longitudinal data on obesity and relationships from 12,000 people collected since 1971 as part of the Framingham Heart Study. This showed that if a participant’s friend became obese over a given two- to fouryear phase of the study, that same participant was subsequently 57 per cent more likely to themselves become obese over the ensuing study phase. These effects were observed regardless of spatial proximity suggesting the effect has to do with beliefs about what body weight (and presumably eating habits too) is considered normal and acceptable in different social circles. Despite these powerful environmental and social influences, surely some factors related to over-consumption reside in the individual? Neuroscientists have identified brain differences in those who persistently over-eat, including in the dopamine pathways implicated in drug addiction. For example, research by Gene-Jack Wang, chair of the medical department at the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, has shown that people who are obese have reduced dopamine receptors (the D2 variety) in the forebrain, paired with enhanced activity in the parts of the brain that represent the mouth and tongue. One theory is that the lack of dopamine receptors could lead obese people to crave compensation for their underactive reward circuits, whilst the enhanced activity in mouth and tongue regions suggests that, for obese people, food may be a particularly powerful source of reward. However, it’s important to consider that the causal direction could work backwards – perhaps over-eating leads to changes in dopamine pathways and alters somatotopic representation of the mouth and tongue. Other obesity experts point to the role played by genes. For example, a study published late in 2010 showed that mice with two copies of the FTO gene (associated with obesity in humans) ate more, which caused them to put on more weight.
Sloth Unlike the other sins, which are largely about excess and disinhibition, sloth reflects a lack of motivation, either intrinsic, extrinsic, or both. Psychologists have been divided as to how to distinguish between these two aspects. One account, which can be traced back to Plato, states that intrinsic motivation is driven by the needs of the mind, whilst extrinsic motivation is driven by the needs of the body. Another argues that intrinsic motivation is when we do something
because it’s inherently enjoyable, whereas extrinsic motivation is when we do something to obtain some other reward. Either way, laziness can be seen as a lack of drive to obtain a potential reward. Another way to think about laziness is as ‘task avoidance’. Rather than failing to respond to a potential reward, task avoidance can be triggered by a fear of failure, perhaps caused by an unrealistic desire for perfectionism. Task avoidance is a habit with long-term repercussions. A 2009 study by Katariina Salmela-Aro and her colleagues at the University of Jyväskylä found that students who avoided work tasks while at university were more likely to be disengaged from their career and suffering burnout 17 years later. ‘Those who avoid work have often had previous negative experiences in similar issues they are facing and thus they fear they will again fail rather than succeed, and then it is a selffulfilling circle,’ says SalmelaAro. ‘If you fear you will fail, you start to avoid and thus it easily leads to failure and negative experiences, again kind of a negative circle.’ Closely related to laziness is idleness – doing nothing. Psychologists at the University of Chicago claimed in 2010 that we’ve inherited an instinct for idleness because our ancestors had to be careful to conserve their energy. Even though we’re happier when we’re busy, Christopher Hsee and his colleagues said the idleness instinct takes over unless we have a reason not to do nothing. In fact, they even suggested governments give serious consideration to interventions such as ordering the building of pointless bridges, purely as way to lure people out of their idle stupors. Hsee’s team made their claims after a series of lab studies, including one showing that participants were happier if they took a 15-minute walk to return a questionnaire than if they just handed it in as they left the room. The trouble is, given the choice, most participants opted for the lazier return point – it was only when they were
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Sin and religion The Deadly Sins have changed. In their earliest form, as expressed by the fourth century monk Evagrius, Sloth was missing, with Acedia (Listlessness) in its place, and there was a combined sin of Sorrow and Despair. Pope Gregory ditched Fornication (the precursor to Lust) and added Luxuria, which pertained to extravagance. Over time, Lust regained its place, nudging out Luxuria, and Acedia was trumped by Sloth. Christianity isn’t the only religious tradition to enumerate the forbidden. In the Bhagavadgītā Hindu scripture, for example, the Arishadvarga are the six evils that should be avoided: Kama, Krodha, Lobh, Moha, Mada and Matasarya, which correspond to desire, anger, greed, infatuation, pride and jealousy. The Sikh Guru Granth Sahib scripture also lists Five Evils, similar to the Arishadvarga but omitting Matasarya. Meanwhile the Sahih al-Bukhari in Islam recognises The Pernicious Seven: ‘associating anything with Allah; magic (akin to witchcraft and sorcery); killing one whom Allah has declared inviolate without a just case, consuming the property of an orphan, devouring usury, turning back when the army advances, and slandering chaste women who are believers but indiscreet’. One religion for which sin has a different meaning is Buddhism. In part this is because there is no Buddhist deity that sits in judgement of those who transgress. However, there is the list of Ten Precepts – training rules for novice monks – which has echoes of the Seven Deadly Sins, including as it does: refraining from sexual misconduct, praising oneself, aggression and meanness.
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given a specious excuse (the reward of a different, though no more attractive, chocolate bar at the more distant location) that they took the walk. ‘People dread idleness, yet without a reason to be busy, they would choose idleness over busyness and be unhappy,’ says Hsee. ‘However, people will engage
in activity and be busy and happy if they have a reason for doing the activity, even if the reason is specious. Sometimes, people will be happier even if they are forced to be busy rather than idle.’ Hsee notes, however, that idleness is not the same as laziness. ‘Laziness results from lack of motivation to work,’ he says,
A week of sin and confession Starting on 7 February, the Society’s Research Digest blog (www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog) will be hosting ‘sin week’. This will include seven top psychologists giving a personal and professional perspective on their own sin. We give you a flavour of that here, with John Sloboda on wrath. The main problem with anger, in my experience and as has been observed by experts, is that its expression may not necessarily improve the situation. As Nico Frijda has observed: ‘…effective interaction with the environment halts, and is replaced by behaviour that is centred around the person himself as in a fit of weeping or laugher, anger or fear. Or interaction with the environment may go on but seems peculiarly ineffective. When someone smashes the dinner plates, the broken plates would hardly seem to be the end result the person had in mind.’ I have tried to bear these wise observations in mind as I have struggled with my fury, sometimes blind fury, with Tony Blair, George Bush, and the MPs and members of Congress who have led Britain and America into the hugely disastrous and destructive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My fury is doubled because we are a democracy, and so I become implicated in these acts whether I like it or not. No British citizen of voting age can escape responsibility for what has happened. We could have stopped this war. We didn’t. We could have voted the Blair Government out of office in 2005. We didn’t. So my anger extends to myself, and to all British people and institutions, particularly those institutions of which I have membership, and which failed to act. We collectively failed as a nation, and that failure will haunt generations to come. The natural tendency in anger is to attack. The attack of an intellectual like myself tends to be verbal. Yet, as we know from studies of bullying, verbal abuse can be deeply wounding. Smashing plates is physically destructive. It is only slightly better than smashing people. And we know only too well that anger that plays itself out in physical violence, be it domestic abuse, public disorder, or war, leads to no good end. Anger against self can lead to depression, self-harm, even suicide. Even direct criticism is often not very productive. There is plenty of research and personal evidence to show than when you criticise someone, they go on the defensive, and harden their position, becoming less, not more, amenable to change. So here was I, angry about the institutionally sanctioned violence that has been perpetrated in my name, and trying to work out if there is a way of channeling my anger which did not simply add to the damage. In the height of my despair and anger, in early 2003, I helped get the Iraq Body Count project on the road. At www.iraqbodycount.org we document as fully as possible details of civilian casualties in Iraq and the violent events which caused them. Unfortunately, the project is still very active. Although born out of anger, the project was not simply against something (the war), it was for something. It was for ensuring that each person killed in the war was properly and respectfully recorded and remembered. As time progressed, I and my colleagues at Iraq Body Count became clearer that this recognition was the expression of a fundamental and universal human right, the right to have one’s death treated with honour and respect. We accept this right for our own soldiers, but deny it for the civilians that get ‘caught in the crossfire’. And so, over time, we have joined with increasing numbers of organisations around the world who, like us, wish to see casualty recording done better, more comprehensively, and in more conflicts (see www.everycasualty.org). There are a few (but still far too few) psychologists thinking about this (e.g. Fischhoff, B., Atran, S. & Fischhoff, N. (2007). Counting casualties: A framework for respectful, useful records. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 34, 1–19). I would still far prefer that there were no wars. But while there are wars, we should ensure that we keep our eyes firmly on the victims, their losses, and their needs. We must know, fully, the human cost of war. I still am angry, almost every day, but my anger is no longer all-consuming and unproductive, precisely because it has a positive outlet, and a growing community of activists to work alongside. I sometimes ask myself whether I would ever had got involved in this creative work without anger to spur me on. Probably not. So do I, on balance, view my wrath as a deadly sin? I’m not sure it is as simple as that!
‘whereas idleness occurs because the person has nothing to do.’
Conclusion The original deadly sins were inspired by humankind’s perpetual struggle to rise above animalistic instincts and rein in the emotions. It’s the occasional success at doing this that makes us human. To postpone gratification today for tomorrow’s greater reward. To sacrifice our own needs for the good of others. It’s our frequent inability to achieve this level of control that makes the sins as relevant today as they ever were. Part of the reason we’re so prone to sin probably has to do with our tendency to underestimate the strength of our primal drives when we’re sated, in what psychologists call a ‘cold state’. Loran Nordgren at the Kellogg School of Management showed this in a series of studies in 2009. For example, faced with the challenge of keeping a chocolate bar for a week without eating it (with the snack bar plus cash as a reward), students who’d just eaten tended to make the mistake of picking their favourite snack bar. Of course, this ramped up the temptation and they ended up being less successful at the task than hungry students who took the same challenge, and who, conscious at the time of their gluttonous drives, wisely chose a less tempting snack bar. ‘In my view self-control is the “master virtue” underlying almost all others,’ says Roy Baumeister at Florida State University, an expert on selfcontrol and the author of Your Own Worst Enemy: Understanding the Paradox of Self-Defeating Behavior. ‘Each of the deadly sins can be seen as a failure or breakdown of self-control.’ Baumeister’s research has shown that self-restraint is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. But it’s also a finite resource. On any given day, if you exert self-control in one situation you’ll have less left over to triumph over temptation later on. ‘Human beings are animals who have managed to create a new kind of social system,’ says Baumeister. ‘The system (culture) requires them to overcome some of their natural, animal habits, inclinations, and tendencies, so as to follow the rules that enable the system to make life better for everyone. Self-control is a vital faculty for enabling them to accomplish this.’ I Dr Christian Jarrett is The Psychologist’s staff journalist firstname.lastname@example.org
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Career concepts in the 21st century John Arnold reviews psychological and social definitions of career and career success and their implications for research
On the basis of what is presented in this article, what insights from other areas of psychology is careers psychology missing out on?
The consistent and sometimes exaggerated emphasis on the unpredictability of careers these days has prompted an assertion of the need and the capacity of individuals to take control. In turn, this helpfully exposes a number of tensions and ambiguities in the study of ‘career’. These need to be explored rather than bypassed by a new orthodoxy. Exploration can lead to innovative and balanced analyses of how people and their careers develop, how the notion of career success can be construed, how career is an inherently social process, and how career and other arenas of life interact.
Arnold, J. & Cohen, L. (2008). The psychology of careers in industrialorganizational settings: A critical but appreciative analysis. In G.P. Hodgkinson & J.K. Ford (Eds.) International Review of Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Vol. 23 (pp.1–44). Chichester: Wiley.
Academy of Management Careers Division: www.cardiv.org
Allen, T.D., Eby, L.T., Poteet, M.L. et al. (2004). Career benefits associated with mentoring for protégés: A metaanalysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 127–136. Arnold, J. & Cohen, L. (2008). The psychology of careers in industrialorganizational settings: A critical but appreciative analysis. In G.P. Hodgkinson & J.K. Ford (Eds.) International Review of
hat does ‘career’ mean to you? Perhaps it conjures notions of status, advancement, and intrinsic satisfaction. Perhaps there is an implicit contrast with ‘job’, meaning something you do (probably somewhat grudgingly) to earn a living. For some years now, most psychologists have tried to overcome this divide by defining career more inclusively. For example Arthur et al. (1989, p.8) have provided a now widely used definition ‘The evolving sequence of a person’s work experiences over time’, whilst Collin and Watts (1996, p.386) offer ‘The individual’s development in learning and work throughout life’. The notions of time and sequence, not status or advancement, are what differentiates career from other workrelated concepts. These inclusive definitions of career are intended to legitimise everyone’s journeys through the labour market. They are also a response to a widespread view that for many people careers are less predictable and secure than they were in the post World War II era (Arthur et al., 1999). They open up to psychologists the possibility of studying and facilitating the work lives of everyone, not just the privileged. To some extent they also incorporate life outside work. For example, leading US vocational psychologist Mark Savickas refers to ‘life design’ in preference to career choice or career development (Savickas et al., 2009). Within psychology, there is a clear and long-established divide between the study of decisions about what occupation to enter (often called vocational
Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Vol. 23 (pp.1–44). Chichester: Wiley. Arthur, M.B., Hall, D.T. & Lawrence, B.S. (Eds.) (1989). Handbook of career theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Arthur, M.B., Inkson, K. & Pringle, J. (1999). The new careers. London: Sage. Arthur, M.B. & Rousseau, D. (Eds.) (1996). The boundaryless career.
psychology), and the study of careers in organisational settings, which is part of organisational psychology (Erdheim et al., 2007). In my view, most of the recent innovative thinking in careers psychology has originated in its organisational wing, perhaps because recent technological and economic changes have produced turbulence in the ways in which careers in organisations are played out. Some argue that better communication, if not integration, of both vocational and organisational psychology would be helpful (Collin & Patton, 2009). Even so, in recent years some key concepts have been developed that can be used in both traditions. More specifically, much of the agenda has for the last 15 years or so been dominated by two influential but speculative concepts of career. The first is the ‘boundaryless career’ (Arthur & Rousseau, 1989). This is presented as a contrast to what had traditionally been considered a career. It is seen as transcending the boundaries of organisations and occupations, sustained by social networks, intertwined with other parts of people’s lives, and under personal control if a person chooses to exert it. The boundaryless career is portrayed as an entity, something ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered. The other career concept is the ‘protean career’, first mentioned by Hall in 1975 but not developed until years later (e.g. Hall, 2002). The protean career is said to be self-directed and values-driven: the person both takes responsibility and has the power to shape the form their career takes, and this responsibility and power is exerted in order to express what matters most to the person. The default values are freedom and growth. These two concepts have shaped research in careers psychology in at least three ways. First, many writers use them as a backdrop – an uncontroversial description of the way things are and a reason to focus on phenomena related to them. This is common. Despite scholars’ claims that they are taking a critical approach, the boundaryless and protean
Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bosley, S., Arnold, J. & Cohen, L. (2009). How other people shape our careers: A typology drawn from career narratives. Human Relations, 62, 1487–1520. Briscoe, J.P., Hall, D.T. & Frautschy DeMuth, R.L. (2006). Protean and boundaryless careers: An empirical exploration. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 69, 30–47.
Byron, K. (2005). A meta-analytic review of work–family conflict and its antecedents. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67, 169–198. Collin, A. & Patton, W. (Eds.) Vocational psychological and organisational perspectives on career. Rotterdam: Sense. Collin, A. & Watts, A.G. (1996). The death and transfiguration of career – and of career guidance? British Journal of
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career concepts seem on the whole to have found acceptance with remarkable ease (see, for example, a recent review by Sullivan & Baruch, 2009). This may however be undeserved. Second, a few writers have tested the concepts by investigating the extent and ways in which the careers experienced and enacted by people match with the concepts. For example, analyses of the applicability of the protean and boundaryless career concepts to somewhat less individualist cultures have not surprisingly revealed some limitations, (e.g. Pringle & Mallon, 2003), most notably how people’s community and family affiliations influence the values and priorities they bring to their career. In a rare test of the assumptions underlying the concepts, Rodrigues and Guest (2010) examine data on job stability and find that, contrary to much of the rhetoric, mobility between employers has not been increasing during the nineties and noughties. Third, some scholars, especially Arthur, Hall and close colleagues, have expounded further on the nature and implications of boundaryless and protean careers and tried to develop questionnaire assessments of the extent to which individuals endorse the two concepts and/or experience their careers in ways that reflect them (e.g. Briscoe et al., 2006).
Pros and cons of the protean and boundaryless career concepts The concepts of the boundaryless and protean career certainly have their merits and their uses, but they are problematic in many ways as bases for guiding research and practice. My colleague Laurie Cohen and I have discussed this in some depth (Arnold & Cohen, 2008), and recently a very good overview of issues surrounding the boundaryless career concept has been provided by Inkson et al. (2010). In general, there is confusion and ambiguity regarding whether the concepts I provide descriptions of how careers are
Guidance and Counselling, 24, 385–398. Dries, N., Pepermans, R. & Carlier, O. (2008). Career success: Constructing a multi-dimensional model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 73, 254–267. Erdheim, J., Zickar, M.J. & Yankelevich, M. (2007). Remembering Donald G Paterson: Before the separation of industrial-organizational and vocational psychology. Journal of
these days, or prescriptions of how they should be; offer analyses of observable behaviour or of states of mind; represent unitary constructs or clusters of specific features of careers that may or may not co-occur; and construe people’s career behaviour as unfettered individual action or a creative response to the unpredictable demands of free-market economies.
ways in which even more privileged people dance to tunes played by those I in economic power (Hirsch & Shanley, 1996). I Despite the problems noted above, the boundaryless and protean career concepts clearly resonate with many people, at least I in Western liberal democracies. My colleague Martin Gubler has found in his doctoral research that they capture the interest of potential participants in his study of IT professionals’ careers in three European countries. One problem is how to turn the boundaryless career and protean career into constructs and measures that meet social scientific requirements. As yet this is unresolved. As one US researcher said to me: ‘It seems you can either have the magic or the measure, but not both.’ The reference to magic supports what many readers may already be thinking: that there is a lot of management guru Mobility between employers has not been increasing during type hand-waving and the nineties and noughties references to poorly defined but appealing concepts. On the other hand, The last of these issues is partially by picking up on what ‘real’ people are addressed by Hall (2002), who positions thinking and saying, careers scholars are the need to know one’s own values as at least offering the possibility that this part of a discourse of personal flexibility particular tributary of social science will whilst hanging on to one’s core sense of engage with the public. The concepts also self in times of unpredictable change. focus attention on some significant The location of this in an individualist phenomena within careers that have free-market economy is confirmed by his sometimes been noted but rarely pursued. statement that ‘we must consider both One of these is the interplay between the person’s path with a heart and the sequences of work experiences and what is employer’s path to profits’ (Hall, 2002, happening (and what the person is seeking p.303). There is also an obvious tendency to do) in other arenas of their life. There to focus on people with marketable skills are interesting discussions about how work and experience whilst neglecting those and other arenas of life may interact (e.g. with less room for manoeuvre, and Greenhaus & Powell, 2006). These extend indeed arguably also overlooking the the well-established work–family conflict
Vocational Behavior, 70, 205–221. Forrier, A., Sels, L. & Stynen, D. (2009). Career mobility at the intersection between agent and structure: A conceptual model. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82, 739–759. Fried, Y., Grant, A.M., Levi, A.S. et al. (2007). Job design in temporal context: A career dynamics perspective. Journal of Organizational
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Behavior, 28, 911–927. Greenhaus, J.H. & Powell, G.N. (2006). When work and family are allies: A theory of work–family enrichment. Academy of Management Review, 31, 72–92. Hall, D.T. (2002). Careers in and out of organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Hamori, M. & Kakarika, M. (2009) External labor market strategy and
career success: CEO careers in Europe and the United States. Human Resource Management, 48, 355–378. Harris, L.C. & Ogbonna, E. (2006). Approaches to career success: An exploration of surreptitious career success strategies. Human Resource Management, 45, 43–65. Hartung, P.J. & Taber, B.J. (2008). Career construction and subjective well-
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literature (see, for example Byron, 2005) and explicitly consider the ways in which facilitation might occur. They also potentially expand the arena of careers psychology beyond the study of sequences of roles to include interplay between contemporaneous ones. More empirical research on how these arenas of life affect each other over time would combine the sequential and contemporaneous perspectives, as well as facilitating a muchneeded rapprochement of career and lifespan developmental psychology (Lachman, 2004; Posthuma & Campion, 2009). The concepts also encourage more attention to the role of boundaries in careers. Writers on the boundaryless career see boundaries as bad because they hem people in. But do they really mean a barrier? Could boundaries actually be good in some ways? For example, boundaries may provide a much-needed cognitive map that helps people construct narratives of their career. Indeed, the construction of satisfactory and satisfying narratives is seen by some as a key career development task these days (Hartung & Taber, 2008).
Anchors and crafting How do people navigate and experience the mix of individual action and structural constraints, and the ways in which they feel they can be self-directed? What values do they pursue in doing so – are these necessarily freedom and growth? Schein (1993) developed a scheme of eight clusters of values that he referred to as career anchors (e.g. autonomy/ independence, security/stability, and dedication to a cause). Investigation of how each anchor does or does not fit with the pursuit of careers that can be described as Boundaryless or Protean is long overdue. Also, Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001) have discussed what they called job crafting. This refers to the ways in which people seek to do their job in their own way. They may mould the job to fit their personal preferences and plans, and often
being. Journal of Career Assessment, 16, 75–85. Harvey, M. & Moeller, M. (2009). Expatriate managers: A historical review. International Journal of Management Reviews, 11, 275–296. Hirsch, P.M. & Shanley, M. (1996). The rhetoric of boundaryless – or, how the newly empowered managerial class bought into its own marginalisation. In M.B. Arthur &
of course this can be in service of their future career beyond this present job (Fried et al., 2007). Again, the notion of job crafting speaks to the ways in which individual agency and structural features of the workplace interact in practice. But although the Wrzesniewski and Dutton article is frequently cited, empirical research on job crafting is thin on the ground. Similar potential is evident in the increasingly popular construct of ‘career adaptability’ (Savickas, 1997; Savickas et al., 2009). This is defined as self-regulation in response to the need to adapt to disequilibrium, and has four proposed components: concern, control, curiosity, and confidence. If embraced rather than ignored, the tension between individual agency and personal development on the one hand and the dictates of the labour market on the other can lead to theoretical and practical advances.
Career success Most of us are interested in knowing how we could be more successful, and career success (but not failure) is a longstanding and hugely popular research topic. In a meta-analysis, Ng et al. (2005) found that variables reflecting personality and social support or affirmation tended to be correlated with career satisfaction but not salary, whilst the reverse was true for socio-demographic and human capital variables, such as gender and educational qualifications. They also found that men were paid higher salaries than women on average, though the gap was smaller in more recent studies than in older ones. In the UK, eye-catching headlines such as
D.M. Rousseau (Eds.) The boundaryless career: A new employment principle for a new organizational era (pp.218–234). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Inkson, K., Ganesh, S., Roper, J. & Gunz, H. (2010, August). The boundaryless career: A productive concept that may have outlived its usefulness. Paper presented at the Academy of Management conference, Montreal.
‘Gender equality is 57 years away’ (from the Chartered Institute of Management in August 2010) suggest that the gap reduction is a slow process indeed. According to Ng and colleagues, levels of career satisfaction did not differ between men and women, but some predictors of success did differ. For example, education, hours worked and ‘Agreeableness’ were stronger correlates of women’s salaries than men’s. Unfortunately, much of this research is fairly unimaginative, in that success is usually measured by position in and/or progress through an organisational hierarchy or pay structure. Career satisfaction is most often measured in terms of satisfaction with status and pay, or unspecified other criteria. Ironically given the prominence of notions of sequence and time in career, most research on career success (and careers in general) is not longitudinal, so what are often referred to as predictors of success would be better described as correlates. More sophisticated and differentiated operationalisations of career success are needed, such as that offered by Dries et al. (2008). This includes additional criteria that many people appear to value, such as (for example) being creative, making a meaningful contribution, and job security.
Judge, T.A., Cable, D.M., Boudreau, J. & Bretz, R.D. (1995). An empirical investigation of the predictors of executive career success. Personnel Psychology, 48, 485–519. Kidd, J.M., Hirsh, W. & Jackson, C. (2004). Straight talking: The nature of effective career discussion at work. Journal of Career Development, 30, 231–245. Lachman, M.E. (2004). Development in
midlife. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 305–331. Ng, T., Eby, L.T., Sorensen, K.L. & Feldman, D.C. (2005). Predictors of objective and subjective career success: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 58, 367–408. Posthuma, R.A. & Campion, M.A. (2009). Age stereotypes in the workplace: Common stereotypes, moderators, and future research directions.
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Work of this kind is especially important if we are taking seriously the general point in the protean and boundaryless career literature that people need to – and often do – define their own personal criteria of career success. The career success literature is also crying out for a stronger and more generally applicable theoretical framework in which to interpret the many potential predictors. Without it much research begs as many questions as it answers. A favourite of mine is an article by Judge et al. (1995), who calculated the cash value of various predictors of the salaries of a sample of American managers. They found that being a graduate of a top US university was worth an impressive $31,000 and having a non-working spouse $22,000 (predictors were not cumulative!). Working one evening a week over and above normal work hours was worth a more modest $4000. Of course, the question in each case is, why? The possible explanations revolve around what is usually called career capital. This refers to people’s accumulations of assets that can help them to be successful. These include not only personal attributes but also social contacts and relationships, and their significance depends on how an individual deploys them and how other people evaluate and prioritise them. Recently, the notion of capital has been developed further by Forrier et al. (2009), who refer to movement capital and locate it both in personal attributes and social structures. Given that moves between jobs are often undertaken as a means of achieving more career success, it seems helpful to examine predictors and outcomes of such moves. One much-studied arena in this respect is corporate expatriation, where much research has focused on who is selected for international moves, who accepts them, what happens upon return, and the ways in which expats (and their employing organisations) gain and/or lose career capital and future prospects (Harvey & Moeller, 2009). These moves do not always live up to the ‘it will be good for
Journal of Management, 35, 158–188. Pringle, J.K. & Mallon, M. (2003) Challenges for the boundaryless career odyssey. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 14, 839–853. Rodrigues, R.A. & Guest, D. (2010). Have careers become boundaryless? Human Relations, 63, 1157–1175. Savickas, M.L., Nota, L., Rossier, J. et al. (2009). Life designing: A paradigm for
your CV’ sales pitch. Regarding moves between employers, recent work by Hamori and Kakarika (2009) suggests, perhaps surprisingly, that on both sides of the Atlantic sticking with one or a small number of employers is better than frequent moves for making it to the top. Note again how easily the researchers construe careers in the narrow sense of hierarchical advancement.
Social aspects of careers For many years there has been something of an obsession amongst both researchers and practitioners with the role that mentoring can play in careers, primarily for the person being mentored, but also on occasions for the mentor. Enthusiasm has frequently outstripped empirical evidence, but meta-analysis does suggest that receiving mentoring does have (typically modest) career benefits for the mentee (Allen et al., 2004). Building on this, there has been increasing interest in so-called ‘developmental networks’ which reflect the entire array of relationships that can contribute to a person’s career development. However, the impact of these networks has not yet been examined thoroughly, even though here again there is a tendency to assume that developmental networks must be a good thing. The role of social networks in career success is a topic of longstanding interest, but again somewhat limited rigorous research. Some of the theorising here is quite sophisticated (e.g. Seibert et al., 2001), but at the same time the majority of empirical research is cross-sectional. This is also true of careers research in general, and is a serious limitation given the centrality of sequence and time in definitions of career. There are some interesting questions regarding the ways in which network features, such as structural holes and weak vs. strong ties, might affect career success. ‘Structural holes’ refers to the extent to which a person knows people who do not know each other. This is thought to be
career construction in the 21st century. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75, 239–250. Schein, E.H. (1993). Career anchors: Discovering your real values (rev. edn). London: Pfeiffer and Co. Seibert, S.E., Kraimer, M.L. & Liden, R.C. (2001). A social capital theory of career success. Academy of Management Journal, 44, 219–237. Sullivan, S.E. & Baruch, Y. (2009).
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good because it enhances the range of information and perspectives available to the individual. ‘Weak vs. strong ties’ refers to the depth of relationship between the focal person and others. Weak ties are not an advantage in themselves, but they are preferable to strong ties with only a few other people (an implicit assumption here is that most people will not have the resources to form and maintain a large number of strong ties). In other words, weak ties may be a surrogate for the number of other people a person has some kind of link with. In a simultaneously refreshing and chilling piece of research, Harris and Ogbonna (2006) have exposed the dark side of careers by eliciting the ‘surreptitious career strategies’ that staff in two organisations reported using. Most of these were social in nature and included creating a sense of obligation in the boss by doing him/her a favour, and subtly undermining rivals in conversation with influential others. In a more wholesome vein, in recent years research has begun to examine what it is about relationships and interactions at work that make them helpful for career development (e.g. Bosley et al., 2009; Kidd et al., 2004). This reflects a welcome expansion of career thinking from intrapersonal to interpersonal. It also alerts us to the potentially crucial nature of relationships in careers, as well as (more broadly) the social construction that goes into our understanding of our own career and the careers of others. Along with largescale cross-cultural longitudinal studies of how careers unfold, these are muchneeded developments if careers research is to fulfil its potential.
John Arnold is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Director of Research, School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University email@example.com
Advances in career theory and research: A critical review and agenda for future exploration. Journal of Management, 35, 1542–1571. Wrzesniewski, A. & Dutton, J.E. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26, 179–201.
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From brain scan to lesson plan Paul A. Howard-Jones asks how can we use insights from neuroscience to provide more effective teaching and learning
What sort of research is needed to translate our understanding of the brain into educational practice?
www.neuroeducational.net – website of the Neuroeducational Research Network, co-ordinated from the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. Howard-Jones, P.A. (2010). Introducing neuroeducational research: Neuroscience, education and the brain from contexts to practice. Abingdon: Routledge. Howard-Jones, P.A. (2010). The teacher's handbook of TWIG: Minds, brains and teaching with immersive gaming. Raleigh, USA: www.Lulu.com.
The idea that we should use our burgeoning understanding of the brain to improve education has a commonsense feel about it. But the past history of brain-based learning, with its unscientific and unevaluated concepts, suggests there are many pitfalls. A new type of research is needed to bridge the gap between these two very different disciplines, and psychology will be an important part of this venture.
Blackwell, L.S., Trzesniewski, K.H. & Dweck, C.S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition. Child Development, 78(1), 246–263. Blakemore, S.J. (2008). The social brain in adolescence. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 267–277. Blakemore, S.J. & Frith, U. (2005). The learning brain. Oxford: Blackwell. Cantlon, J.F., Brannon, E.M., Carter, E.J.
What will be the role of psychology in such a venture?
consequent educational interventions improving language outcomes and remediating these differences in neural activity (Shaywitz et al., 2004; Simos et al., 2002; Temple et al., 2003). Neuroscience is also shedding light in other areas of education, providing insight into the link between exercise and learning (Hillman et al., 2008), and prompting reexamination of teenage behaviour (Blakemore, 2008). Perhaps as importantly, it is established scientists that are now promoting neuroscience as having educational value (e.g. Blakemore & Frith, 2005; de Jong et al., 2009; Goswami, 2004). Indeed, neuroscientists appear increasingly willing to speculate on the possible relevance of their work to ‘realworld’ learning, albeit from a vantage point on its peripheries. Such speculation often comes under the heading of ‘educational neuroscience’ – a term that broadly encompasses any cognitive neuroscience with potential application in education. Accordingly, its research basis might be characterised by the epistemology,
he last decade has seen something of a step change in efforts to bring cognitive neuroscience and education together in dialogue. This may partly be due to anxieties over the ‘parallel world’ of pseudo-neuroscience found in many schools. Much of this is unscientific and educationally unhelpful, and there is clearly a need for some serious ‘myth-busting’ (see box). There may, however, be a more positive reason why discussions are breaking out between neuroscience and education. Ideas are now emerging from authentic neuroscience with relevance for education. For example, neuroscience has helped identify ‘number sense’ (a nonsymbolic representation of quantity) as an important foundation of mathematical development and associated with a specific region of the brain called the intraparietal sulcus (Cantlon et al., 2006). As we learn to count aloud, our number sense integrates with our early ability to exactly represent small numbers (1 to 4) to ‘bootstrap’ our detailed understanding of number. Such insights have prompted an educational intervention Research is needed to bridge the gap between yielding promising results laboratory and classroom (Wilson et al., 2009). Or take the field of reading: children with developmental dyslexia have shown reduced activation in typical methodology and aims of cognitive left hemisphere sites and atypical neuroscience. But, moving from engagement of right hemisphere sites, with speculation to application is not
& Pelphrey, K.A. (2006). Functional imaging of numerical processing in adults and 4-y-old children. PloS Biology, 4(5), 844–854. de Jong, T., van Gog, T., Jenks, K. et al. (2009). Explorations in learning and the brain: On the potential of cognitive neuroscience for educational science. New York: Springer. Fiorillo, C.D., Tobler, P.N. & Schultz, W. (2003). Discrete coding of reward
probability and uncertainty by dopamine neurons. Science, 299, 1898–1902. Goswami, U. (2004). Neuroscience and education. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 1–14. Gracia-Bafalluy, M. & Noel, M.-P. (2008). Does finger training increase young children’s numerical performance? Cortex, 44, 368–375. Hillman, C.H., Erickson, K.I. & Framer,
A.F. (2008). Be smart, exercise your heart: Exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 58–65. Howard-Jones, P.A. (2008). Fostering creative thinking: Co-constructed insights from neuroscience and education. Bristol: ESCalate. Available online via www.neuroeducational.net Howard-Jones, P.A. (2010). Introducing
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straightforward, since the educational value of insights from neuroscience rest on their integration with knowledge from more established educational perspectives. There are many challenges in moving from brain scan to lesson plan, as we seek relationships between neural processes and the types of complex everyday learning behaviours we can observe in schools and colleges. To begin with, we have to draw together at least three very different types of evidence: biological, social and experiential. One thing appears clear from the outset: a simple transmission model in which neuroscientists advise educators on their practice should never be expected to work. Neuroscientists are rarely experienced in considering classroom practice. Since neuroscience cannot provide instant solutions for the classroom, research is needed to bridge the gap between laboratory and classroom. To emphasise the key role of educational values and thinking in the design and execution of such a venture, workers at the University of Bristol have found themselves using the term ‘neuroeducational research’ to describe this enterprise (Howard-Jones, 2010). For both scientists and educators, co-construction of concepts requires broadening personal epistemological perspectives, understanding different meanings for terms used in their everyday language (e.g. learning, meaning, attention, reward, etc.) and appreciating each other’s sets of values and professional aims. This boils down to having a dialogue about how the different perspectives and their favoured types of evidence can inform about learning in different but potentially complementary ways. In contrast to such authentic interdisciplinary work, brief intellectual liaisons between education and neuroscience are never likely to bear healthy fruit. These flirtations may, indeed, spawn further neuromyths, often due to a lack of attention to psychological concepts. A common example is when synaptic connections in the brain are used to explain how we form connections between
neuroeducational research: Neuroscience, education and the brain from contexts to practice. Abingdon: Routledge. Howard-Jones, P.A., Blakemore, S.J., Samuel, E. et al. (2005). Semantic divergence and creative story generation. Cognitive Brain Research, 25, 240–250. Howard-Jones, P.A., Bogacz, R., Demetriou, S. et al. (2009). From
ideas. Although association between ideas is a well-studied psychological concept, it is currently impossible to study at the level of the synapse. Conflating brain and mind in this way allows some educational practices to gain an apparently neuroscientific flavour. This can, somewhat deceptively, add to their attractiveness because explanations provide greater satisfaction when they include neuroscience (Weisberg et al., 2008). Having this important Say you want to communicate scientific and conversation about how different educational understanding to teachers – how would perspectives inform learning is you go about it? In the absence of an appropriate a first step towards a theoretical forum, neuromyths have flourished. framework for research at the We surveyed 158 graduate trainees about to enter interface of neuroscience and secondary schools (Howard-Jones, Franey et al., education. This can help us 2009): combine findings more judiciously I 82 per cent considered teaching children in their across perspectives to develop preferred learning style could improve learning a better understanding of learning, outcomes. This approach is commonly justified in but such an aspiration also has terms of brain function, despite educational and implications for methodology. scientific evidence demonstrating the learning-style If there is a genuine commitment approach is not helpful (Kratzig & Arbuthnott 2006). to interrelate findings from I 65 per cent of trainees considered that coordination component perspectives, then exercises could improve integration of left–right the methods associated with these hemispheric function. perspectives can be adapted to I 20 per cent thought their brain would shrink if they better support such interrelation. drank less than six to eight glasses of water a day. For example, qualitative interpretation of classroom None of these ideas are supported by what we know discourse can draw usefully on from scientific studies (for a review, see Howardneurocognitive concepts in the Jones, 2010). interpretive analysis of its meaning. Some brain-imaging studies can contribute more meaningfully to the experiential evidence as they attempt to construction of neuroeducational concepts construct answers that, collectively, help if they include semi-structured interviews span the social/natural science divide. of participants, to derive experiential The unusual sequencing of methods insights about their constructs, strategies in neuroeducational research can be and attitudes. In some bridging studies, illustrated by two sets of investigations judicious compromise and innovative involving our lab (NEnet at approaches may help improve the www.neuroeducational.net). In the first ecological validity of experimental tasks of these, we used functional magnetic while still attempting to control extraneous resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate a variables. Perhaps most unusually, popular strategy for fostering creativity: the researchers in the same team may find incorporation of unrelated stimulus into an themselves sequencing radically different outcome (e.g. combining unrelated words methods to collect biological, social and into a story, or ‘found’ objects into a piece
gaming to learning: A reward-based model of decision-making predicts declarative memory performance in a learning game. Paper presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Brighton. Howard-Jones, P.A., Bogacz, R., Yoo, J.H. et al. (2010). The neural mechanisms of learning from competitors. Neuroimage, 53(1), 790–799. Howard-Jones, P.A. & Demetriou, S.
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(2009). Uncertainty and engagement with learning games. Instructional Science, 37, 519–536. Howard-Jones, P.A., Demetriou, S., Bogacz, R. et al. (2011). Toward a Science of Learning Games. Brain, Mind and Education, 5, 33–41. Howard-Jones, P.A., Franey, L., Mashmoushi, R. & Liao, Y.-C. (2009). The neuroscience literacy of trainee teachers. Paper presented at the
British Educational Research Association Annual Conference. University of Manchester. Available online at tinyurl.com/338tdra Howard-Jones, P.A., Winfield, M. & Crimmins., G. (2008). Coconstructing an understanding of creativity in the fostering of drama education that draws on neuropsychological concepts. Educational Research, 50, 187–201.
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of visual art). This type of strategy is well findings for pedagogy. This final stage known to artists and was beloved by required a deeper involvement of surrealists such as Kurt Schwitters, who educational practitioners and took place would set himself the task of creating back at the Department of Drama something from found objects, such as Education where discussions had whatever he found in his wife’s wastepaper originally begun. The objective now was bin. The strategy operates by encouraging to ‘co-construct’ pedagogical concepts an individual to combine unrelated enriched by scientific insights about the concepts and so generate more original brain and the mind, with a group of ideas, but our fMRI study suggested that trainee teachers led by a team with both this also results in a need for more neural educational and scientific expertise in the processing aimed at filtering out the good area (Howard-Jones et al., 2008). Special ideas from the many bad ones (Howardattention was given to what trainees found Jones et al., 2005). useful for understanding their own and Such studies, however, provide little their pupils’ experiences and learning. insight into what the strategy feels like. We pursued an action research spiral fMRI studies are chiefly from an ‘outsider’ consisting of an initial discussion between perspective and take place in very members of the research team and the constrained contexts, so a subsequent twotrainee student teachers, followed by three day theatre workshop was arranged to cycles of research meeting, seminar, investigate ‘insider’ insights related to this activity-based workshop and student and other concepts about creativity that discussion. have been explored in the laboratory. The Through this iterative process of team consisted of three professional actors, a theatrical director, a drama consultant and myself, all actively participating. The workshop was filmed so that excerpts could provide meaningful starting points for later discussion with drama teachers aimed at developing educational praxis. Apart from investigating the experience of creativity-fostering strategies related to those investigated in the MRI scanner, the workshop allowed dramatic exploration of neural and psychological constructions about creativity. This was a valuable introduction to understanding the existing field of cultural values with which ideas involving the brain and creativity might interact. That understanding was Why do students who cannot focus attention in lessons helpful in the next stage of become so absorbed in other activities, such as the investigation, when we computer gaming? explored the meaning of our
Kratzig, G.P. & Arbuthnott, K.D. (2006). Perceptual learning style and learning proficiency: A test of the hypothesis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 238–246. Molfese, D.L. (2000). Predicting dyslexia at 8 years of age using neonatal brain responses. Brain and Language, 72, 238–245. Shaywitz, B.A., Shaywitz, S.E., Blachman, B.A. et al. (2004).
Development of left occipitotemporal systems for skilled reading in children after a phonologically-based intervention. Biological Psychiatry 55(9), 926–933. Shizgal, P. & Arvanitogiannis, A. (2003). Gambling on dopamine. Science, 299, 1856–1858. Simos, P.G., Fletcher, J.M. Bergman, E. et al. (2002). Dyslexia-specific brain activation profile becomes normal
action and reflection, a range of scientifically valid and educationally relevant concepts was produced for helping drama teachers foster the creativity of their students (Howard-Jones, 2008). These concepts included the potential of metacognitive processes to combat fixation, the need to consider the learner(s), their progress and the context when intervening in their creative process, and the need for additional time to filter out poor outcomes when making links between concepts that are not usually associated with each other. These different studies about creativity were able to inform each other because of, rather than despite, each study being derived from an entirely different way of looking at things. As well as providing scientific insight, the fMRI study was a useful stimulus for the performance research. The performance research, in turn, provided experiential insights into experimental conditions used in the fMRI study. The action research drew on fMRI findings, and concepts and video footage from the performance research, but also prompted new research questions of educational interest that might be amenable to further imaging studies. Another area that has involved sequencing a diverse range of methods has been our research into learning games. This began by asking whether educators needed to rethink how reward (in the educational sense of the word) is used in the classroom. Why, for example, do students who cannot focus attention in lessons become so absorbed in other activities, such as computer gaming? Computer games involve large amounts of uncertainty, and this may help explain their attractiveness. The predictability of an outcome has been shown to influence the reward signal it generates in the brain, with maximum response for rewards that are halfway between totally unexpected and completely predictable, i.e. 50 per cent likely (Fiorillo et al., 2003). This has been used to explain why humans may be so attracted to games
following successful remedial training. Neurology, 58, 1203–1213. Temple, E., Deutsch, G., Poldrack, R.A. et al. (2003). Neural deficits in children with dyslexia ameliorated by behavioral remediation: Evidence from functional fMRI. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 100, 2860–2865. Weisberg, D.S., Keil, F.C., Goodstein, J.,
Rawson, E. & Gray, J. (2008). The seductive lure of neuroscience explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(3), 470–477. Wilson, A.J., Dehaene, S., Dubois, O. & Fayol. M. (2009). Effects of an adaptive game intervention on accessing number sense in lowsocioeconomic-status kindergarten children. Mind, Brain, and Education, 3(4), 224–234.
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of chance (Shizgal & Arvanitogiannis, 2003). Our research investigated the relevance of such neural concepts in educational games, and it began with a series of bridging studies. Firstly, we tested a hypothesis generated from the science, and demonstrated that students preferred educational tasks when they were embedded in a gaming context involving uncertain rewards (HowardJones & Demetriou, 2009). A second classroom study revealed how reward uncertainty subverted the discourse around learning in positive ways, encouraging open motivational talk of the type found in sport (e.g. ‘Yeah…come on!’, ‘We’re gonna win, we’re gonna win!’). A further study compared the physiological response of adults carrying out a learning task with and without chance-based uncertainty, and showed that reward uncertainty in a computerbased learning game heightened the emotional response to learning. However, to understand how the response of the brain’s reward system influences learning from one event to another in a learning game, it was necessary to apply a neurocomputational model. In this type of approach, a computer programme is built that mimics how our present understanding of the brain might predict behaviours such as decision-making. Essentially, it is just a more sophisticated version of having a hypothesis linking brain to cognition. The actual decisions made by the participants are fed into this programme, which then adjusts the model (such as those parameters which may be expected to vary according to the context) to provide a model that most closely fits the overall behaviour of the group. This bestfit model can then be used to estimate the response of the reward system at different points in the game for an individual. In support of our theory, we found this estimated neural response provided a better prediction of whether a learner would recall new information than just the points available for a correct answer (Howard-Jones, Bogacz et al., 2009). If, in such ways, concepts from cognitive neuroscience can provide a scientifically valid basis for understanding human behaviour in learning games, then these concepts may have considerable value in developing educational software. They also have potential in developing pedagogy for whole-class gaming managed by the teacher. Through further action research, concepts from neuroscience and psychology have provided the basis for developing a pedagogy for teaching with immersive gaming (or ‘twigging’) (Howard-Jones et al., 2011).
Good neuroscience in education When teenagers understand more about the plasticity of their own brains, this can have a positive influence on their self-concept and their academic achievement (Blackwell et al., 2007). The proximity of brain regions involved with the processing of numbers and fingers has prompted successful educational interventions based on improving finger awareness (Gracia-Bafalluy & Noel, 2008). Measurements of brain-related electrical activity can be used to predict at birth whether a child is at risk of dyslexia (Molfese, 2000), allowing the earliest possible intervention.
As with our research on creativity, our studies involving learning games have again emphasised the need for interdisciplinary research across natural and social science perspectives, employing a radical mixture of methods adapted to support their interrelation. The initial bridging study was quasi-experimental but was adapted to collect evidence of how students talked about their feelings when experiencing chance-based uncertainty in their learning. This qualitative experiential evidence prompted the second study focusing on student discourse. The second study involved the qualitative interpretation of dialogue but applied neuropsychological concepts in developing the analysis. Also, observations in the classroom have raised questions about the types of reward signal generated during competition, which is a key feature of most educational games but with little existing neuroscientific research to provide insight. These research questions have now been addressed in a neurocomputational study of competitive learning using brain imaging (Howard-Jones et al., 2010), and the models developed in this study are forming the basis of further classroom investigations into learning games. This is just a selection of the ways in which the natural and social sciences can meet and support each other in neuroeducational research that attempts to develop both a scientific and educational understanding of learning. The active involvement of educational and neuroscientific experts in collaborative research has also highlighted the need for care when communicating messages and findings from integrating perspectives.
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This is essential for avoiding the types of neuromyths that introduced this article. For example, words such as ‘motivation’, ‘reward’, ‘attention’ and even ‘learning’ appear to have different meanings within neuroscience and education. A neuroeducational research approach, based on dialogue and co-construction of concepts, can help identify these issues and develop appropriate messages that are, as far as possible, inoculated against misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The dialogue between neuroscience and education is still in its infancy, but already it suggests the need for a new field of inquiry that is both scientifically and educationally grounded. Psychological understanding of learning will be crucial in linking neural processes to learning achieved in a classroom. Educational thinking also needs to be involved at every stage, from developing tractable and useful questions, to executing the research and communicating its findings. Innovation will be required in developing the methodology to embrace both natural and social science perspectives in this way. If it can rise to these challenges, neuroeducational research may enrich both education and the sciences of mind and brain.
Paul A. Howard-Jones is in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol firstname.lastname@example.org
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Asperger’s syndrome – Difference or disorder? Louise Elliman looks at the strengths associated with Asperger’s syndrome, from a social model of disability perspective
Research suggests that a high percentage of individuals with AS also have mental health problems. How does this impact on the question of whether AS is seen as a difference or a disorder? Should the social model be applied to the mental health problems faced by those with AS?
Shakespeare, T. (2006) Disability rights and wrongs. London: Routledge. www.tonyattwood.com.au
There is currently much controversy over the status of Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and how individuals with AS should be viewed within society. Is AS a disorder in need of diagnosis and treatment, or even curing if that were possible? Or should AS be seen as a personality difference – the extreme end of a spectrum of traits possessed by many individuals in the general population to some extent? Has AS become a disability solely due to unfair barriers within society? Or can the social difficulties faced by those with AS still be appropriately viewed as a direct consequence of their underlying impairments?
American Psychiatric Association (2010) DSM-5 Development: 299.00 Autistic disorder. Retrieved 11 May 2010 from www.dsm5.org/proposedRevisions/pa ges/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=94# Attwood, T. (2002). The profile of friendship skills in Asperger’s syndrome. Jenison Autism Journal, 14, 3. (Available via www.tonyattwood.com.au) Attwood, T. (2007). The complete guide to
observed in those with AS, for example physically larger brains and increased cell density in some areas of the brain, this cannot necessarily be taken as evidence that this type of brain is better or worse than a typical brain. Baron-Cohen (2000, 2002) has argued that those with AS are more object-focused and oriented towards ‘folk physics’, whereas typically developing individuals are more likely to be peoplefocused and oriented towards ‘folk psychology’. However, he points out that being ‘object-focused’ is only a disability in contexts in which people are expected to be sociable, and may actually be an advantage in certain careers such as engineering or computing (Baron-Cohen, 2002). So what are the implications of taking context into consideration when viewing AS?
t is generally accepted that Asperger’s syndrome (AS) lies within the autism spectrum, and as such it has long been seen entirely as a developmental disorder consisting of impairments in social interaction, social communication and imagination (Wing & Gould, 1979). However, in addition to the known difficulties associated with AS it has recently been argued that in some individuals there are also many associated The medical and social models strengths (e.g. Baron-Cohen, 2002). These The view of AS as a difference rather than are not merely the positive character traits a disorder is consistent with the social that individuals may possess despite their model of disability (Oliver, 1983). This AS, but genuine strengths that many model arose out of a series of campaigns individuals possess because of their AS. by the Union of Physically Impaired In terms of intelligence, those Against Segregation (UPIAS) in the 1970s with AS (unlike those with classic autism) and began by emphasising the fact that have an IQ within the normal range. On people with impairments also face social certain subscales of intelligence tests, those with AS have even been found to perform better than their typically developing peers (e.g. Mayes & Calhoun, 2008; Shah & Frith, 1993). They also tend to have superior attention to detail and perform better at tests involving finding images embedded within other images (Mottron et al., 2006; Shah & Frith, 1993). Indeed it has often been suggested that many successful and creative figures from history such as Wittgenstein, Einstein and Mozart may have shown characteristics of AS (e.g. Fitzgerald, 2004; Ledgin, 2002). Baron-Cohen (2002) argues Barrier-free utopia? No meeting, communicating with, or havi that although a range of interpret other people neurological differences have been
Asperger’s syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley. Bagatell, N. (2010). From cure to community: Transforming notions of autism. Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, 38(1), 33–55. Baron-Cohen, S. (2000). Autism: Deficits in folk psychology exist alongside superiority in folk physics. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg &
D. Cohen (Eds.) Understanding other minds: Perspectives from autism and developmental cognitive neuroscience (2nd edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baron-Cohen, S. (2002). Is Asperger syndrome necessarily viewed as a disability? Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 17(3), 186–192. Batten, A., Corbett, C., Rosenblatt, M. et
al. (2006). Make school make sense. Autism and education: The reality for families today. National Autistic Society. Retrieved 27 April 2010 from www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp? d=1517 Bauminger, N., Shulman, C. & Agam, G. (2003). Peer interaction and loneliness in high-functioning children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,
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problems as an additional burden. The views of UPIAS then developed further and created a clear distinction between impairments (physical limitations) and disability which was defined solely in terms of social exclusion (Shakespeare, 2006). A dichotomy was ultimately formed between the ‘medical model’, which was criticised for viewing disability as an individual deficit and locating the need for change as being within the individual, versus the ‘social model’ which advocated acceptance of impairments and the need for society to change in order to remove the barriers which cause disability (Oliver, 2004). The social model originated in the context of physical disabilities and was later applied to learning disabilities (e.g. Chappell et al., 2001; Walmsley, 1997). However, very little has been written on the social model of disability as applied to specifically to AS or autism.
A barrier-free utopia? To illustrate the idea that disability does not reside within an individual but is socially constructed, Finkelstein (1981) wrote a powerful vignette about a barrierfree utopia where everything was designed and controlled by people with physical impairments. In Finkelstein’s world, wheelchair users were no longer disabled by flights of steps or high kerbs, rather it was the able-bodied people who were disabled by all the low ceilings and doorways of a world designed solely for wheelchair users. However, Shakespeare (2006) points out that although ‘barrier free enclaves’ are possible, a world in which people with impairments are entirely free from environmental barriers is difficult to envision in reality. r having to Considering the case of people with autism or AS, Shakespeare
33(5), 489–507. Bogdashina, O. (2003). Sensory perceptual issues in autism and Asperger syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley. Chappell, A.L., Goodley, D. & Lawthom, R. (2001). Making connections: The relevance of the social model of disability for people with learning difficulties. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 45–50. Finkelstein, V. (1981). To deny or not to
(2006) suggests that ‘a barrier free utopia might be a place where they did not have to meet, communicate with, or have to interpret other people’. Others have also envisioned a similar kind of barrier-free utopia for those with AS. For example, Mark Haddon, in his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, described how the protagonist, a teenage boy with AS, had a recurring dream in which those with autism were the only people left in the world: And these people are all special people like me. And they like being on their own and I hardly ever see them because they are like okapi in the jungle, which are a kind of antelope, and very shy and rare. And I can go anywhere in the world and I know that noone is going to talk to me or touch me or ask me a question. (Haddon, 2003, p.99)
It could be argued that this complete absence of social contact would remove the disabling aspect of AS. As Attwood (2007) observes in children with AS:
What’s in a name? In this article, no distinction is drawn between Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and high-functioning autism (HFA), as there has been some debate about whether it is possible to accurately differentiate between the two diagnoses. Generally, a diagnosis of AS is given where an individual meets all the criteria for HFA but has no early history of language delay. However, critics have argued that this small distinction is insufficient to warrant a separate diagnostic category (e.g. Tryon et al., 2006). In response to these criticisms, proposals are currently in place to remove the term ‘Asperger’s disorder’ from the DSM diagnostic criteria, subsuming it instead within the more general term ‘autism spectrum disorder’, possibly with some modifiers to indicate severity (APA, 2010). Although individuals across the autism spectrum may have particular strengths, the argument for autism being a difference rather than a disorder is perhaps stronger when applied to individuals with AS. As Baron-Cohen (2002) argues, those with classic autism could be said to have a disorder at least in the form of intellectual impairment, whereas those with AS have an IQ within the normal range, possess many strengths, and therefore might more appropriately be viewed as different rather than disordered. The distinct status of AS as a difference, could be cited as a reason to reject the recent proposals to place AS within the same diagnostic category as classic autism.
In solitude, the child does not have a qualitative impairment in social interaction. At least two people are needed for there to be a social interaction, and if the child is alone, there will be no evidence of any impairment. (Attwood, 2007, p.55)
However, in reality this would be both impractical to achieve and undesirable – it would create segregation and fail to support those with AS who strongly desire to socialise yet find this difficult to achieve. Bauminger et al. (2003) found a high incidence of loneliness in those with
deny disability. In A. Brechin, P. Liddiard & J. Swain (Eds.) Handicap in a social world. Sevenoaks: Hodder & Stoughton. Fitzgerald, M. (2004). Autism and creativity. Hove: Brunner-Routledge. Haddon, M. (2003). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. London: Vintage. Ledgin, N. (2002). Asperger’s and self esteem: Insight and hope through
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high-functioning autism/AS, and this would presumably only be increased in a world devoid of social interaction. Those advocating the medical model have traditionally implied that social difficulties are a direct consequence of underlying impairments. However, one major barrier faced by individuals with AS is prejudice and discrimination. This point is made by Attwood (2002), who quotes his sister-in-law, who has AS: Because of the way I talk and my dislike of things that are loud, people don’t always accept me or often judge me before even knowing me. If people with Asperger’s find it hard to integrate into society and socialise, it
famous role models. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons. Mayes, S.D. & Calhoun, S.L. (2008). WISC-IV and WIAT-II profiles of highfunctioning children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 428–439. Mesibov, G.B., Shea, V. & Schloper, E. (2004). The TEACCH approach to autism spectrum disorders. New York: Springer.
Mitchell, P., Parsons, S. & Leonard, A. (2007). Using virtual environments for teaching social understanding to 6 adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 589–600. Moore, D., Cheng, Y., McGrath, P. & Powell, N.J. (2005). Collaborative virtual environment technology for people with autism. Focus on Autism
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could have a lot to do with discrimination on the part of others.
In addition to the problem of general discrimination, it could be argued that people with AS also face specific barriers in the form of inaccessible communication methods, such as unclear non-verbal signals, non-specific instructions or abstract metaphors. A possible way of reducing such barriers may be in the use of alternative methods of communication and socialisation, perhaps through greater use of computer technology.
Giving AS a voice Computer technology and the internet have played an important role in finally giving a collective voice to individuals with AS (Bagatell, 2010). For some individuals with AS, forming campaigning groups or communities may be difficult due to the social difficulties associated with their condition. In this regard, the advent of the internet as a communication tool has been greatly beneficial in that it has allowed people with AS to form groups and therefore to claim a voice in society (Singer, 1999). As a result of this new technology, a wide range of internet forums and chat rooms have been developed by and for individuals with AS (for example, see www.autisticadvocacy.org; www.aspiesforfreedom.com). Bagatell (2010) quotes a member of an AS selfadvocacy group as saying; The computer is kind of like what sign language is for the Deaf. It’s the autistic way of communicating. (Bagatell, 2010, p.37).
As a result of these developments, several recent studies have investigated the possibility of using computer technology to aid socialising in individuals with autism and have found that virtual-reality software can be beneficial in enabling individuals with AS or autism to practise and improve their
and Other Developmental Disabilities, 20(4), 231–243. Mottron, L., Dawson, M., Soulieres, I. et al. (2006). Enhanced perceptual functioning in autism: An update and eight principles of autistic perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 27–43. National Autistic Society (2003). Approaches to autism. London: Author.
social skills (e.g. Mitchell et al., 2007; Moore et al., 2005). New terminology to describe autism and AS has arisen within such online communities, which often contradicts the terms used by medical professionals or parents of children with autism or AS. For example, many parents prefer ‘person-first language’ to acknowledge a person’s humanity foremost, rather than defining the person solely in terms of his or her impairments. However, many adults with autism or AS prefer the terms ‘autistic’, ‘Aspie’ or ‘Aspergic’ rather than ‘person with autism’ or ‘person with AS’. This is so as to emphasise their view that autism/AS is a fundamental part of who they are and should be seen as an acceptable ‘difference’, rather than as something they have which can be separated from their personhood (e.g. Sinclair, 1999, cited in Bagatell, 2010). People without autism or AS are often referred to by online autism communities as ‘neurotypical’ – a condition deemed to have its own relative impairments. This is demonstrated on a spoof website which features ‘diagnostic criteria’ for ‘Neurotypical syndrome’ a disorder characterised by, ‘preoccupations with social concerns, delusions of superiority and obsessions with conformity’ (http://isnt.autistics.org). The online autism community is also strongly critical of those seeking a cure for autism/AS. As autism/AS is seen as a ‘difference’ rather than a ‘disorder’; to ‘cure’ a person’s autism would be to remove a fundamental and often positive aspect of their identity (Bagatell, 2010). However, it is important to note that this position does not necessarily represent the views of all those with autism or AS. Bagatell (2010) quotes one man as protesting strongly; ‘But autism sucks! It is like a disease. My life sucks.’ The anti-cure position has also led to conflict with some parents of children with autism or AS. Many parents acknowledge that they love their child and recognise their child’s strengths yet still maintain a desire for a cure, often citing the unhappiness and frustration they see their child experiencing and the stress
Oliver, M. (1983). Social work with disabled people. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Oliver, M. (2004). The social model in action: If I had a hammer. In C. Barnes & G. Mercer (Eds.) Implementing the social model of disability: Theory and research. Leeds: The Disability Press. Rosenblatt, M. (2008). I exist: The message from adults with autism in England. National Autistic Society.
and disruption to family life as reasons to continue searching for this elusive cure (e.g. Schall, 2000).
Strengths of the social model A major strength of the social model of disability is that it places moral responsibility on society to remove the barriers that individuals with AS are confronted with, rather than expecting those with AS to change in order to conform to the expectations of society. It is also a positive approach in that it acknowledges the strengths associated with AS, of which there are many (Baron-Cohen, 2002), and it is consistent with the view of AS as an acceptable difference rather than a disorder. The social model of disability has been demonstrated to be politically effective in generating a clear agenda for social change as well as being psychologically effective in improving the self-esteem of those with impairments and building a collective identity (Shakespeare, 2006). As an approach, it is easy to understand and has clear implications for intervention. Some commonly used interventions such as TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Handicapped Children) could be said to be consistent with the social model of disability. The TEACCH approach to educating children with autism or AS promotes respect for ‘the culture of autism’ and advocates using visual cues to structure the environment and to aid communication. Within this approach, autism/AS is accepted as a lifelong condition, and the location of intervention is in the environment (Mesibov et al., 2004). However, TEACCH is just one of a wide range of interventions commonly used with individuals with autism or AS (National Autistic Society, 2003). Advocates of the social model of
Retrieved 27 April 2010 from www.nas.org.uk/nas/ jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=160&a=16887 Schall, C. (2000). Family perspectives on raising a child with autism. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9(4), 409–423. Shah, A. & Frith, U. (1993). Why do autistic individuals show superior performance on the block design task? Journal of Child Psychology and
Psychiatry, 34, 1351–1364. Shakespeare, T. (2006). Disability rights and wrongs, London: Routledge. Singer, J. (1999). ‘Why can’t you be normal for once in your life?’ From ‘a problem with no name’ to the emergence of a new category of difference. In M. Corker & S. French (Eds.) Disability discourse (pp.57–67). Buckingham: Open University Press. Tryon, P., Mayes, S.D., Rhodes, R.L. &
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disability would call for all potential interventions for autism to avoid trying to change the person and to focus instead on solutions that remove external barriers.
Weaknesses of the social model The social model has arisen from political activism rather than research. It therefore has the power to inspire and to promote political change, but less power to fully explain the experiences of people with impairments. Shakespeare (2006) argues that through its exclusive focus on disability as social oppression, the social model neglects the additional role of impairment itself as a disabling factor. To apply this position to the case of AS, the traditional medical model would argue that impaired theory of mind and impaired ability to interpret non-verbal cues cause difficulties in social interaction. The social model of disability would argue that unclear communication methods and externally imposed discrimination are the cause of these difficulties. An alternative view would be that both underlying impairments and social discrimination cause social interaction difficulties for those with AS. In addition to this, it may be that discrimination exacerbates existing impairments, for example, by limiting opportunities to practise social skills, or
Waldo, M. (2006). Can Asperger’s disorder be differentiated from autism using DSM IV criteria? Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 21(1), 2–6. Walmsley, J. (1997). Including people with learning difficulties: Theory and practice. In L. Barton & M. Oliver (Eds.) Disability studies: Past, present and future. Leeds: The Disability Press. Wing, L. & Gould, J. (1979). Severe
that discrimination creates new impairments such as depression or anxiety, which may then cause further difficulty in social interaction. To separate impairment from disability is therefore to create an artificial dichotomy that denies this complex interaction between the two concepts. An additional weakness of the social model of disability is the problem of creating a ‘barrier-free world’ that is able to accommodate incompatible impairments. Shakespeare (2006, p.46) illustrates this point with the example of wheelchair users being liberated by the absence of kerbs, but blind people requiring kerbs in order to differentiate between the pavement and the road. In the case of autism and AS, this issue is further complicated by the possibility that two people who both have a diagnosis of autism or AS may have incompatible environmental requirements. For example, many individuals with autism or AS have particular sensory sensitivities and can be either hyposensitive (under-sensitive) or hypersensitive (oversensitive) to particular forms of sensory input (Bogdashina, 2003). A person with autism/AS who is hyposensitive to sounds may enjoy making loud repetitive noises in order to regulate his need for auditory input. However, this may be incompatible with the needs of another person with autism/AS who is hypersensitive to sound and requires a quiet environment.
Conclusions In order to move beyond the current ‘disorder versus difference’ debate and to arrive at a consensus, it seems necessary to bridge the current divide between the traditional approaches to AS and the social model of disability and to consider whether the two positions are necessarily
impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: Epidemiology and classification. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 9, 11–29.
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mutually exclusive. The reality of the impairments associated with AS is widely acknowledged, and it is accepted that well-being may be impacted upon directly by impairments, for example by extreme sensory sensitivities. However, it is also widely acknowledged that many of the barriers faced by people with AS arise from society rather than from the individual. For example, one in five children with autism/AS have been excluded from school and 40 per cent of children with autism/AS have been bullied by their peers (Batten et al., 2006). As adults, only 15 per cent of those with autism/AS are in full-time employment and over 70 per cent of those who live on their own have been bullied or harassed (Rosenblatt, 2008). In seems likely that rather than the experiences of those with AS being directly caused by their neurology, as the medical model has been much criticised for implying, or being entirely socially constructed, as strict interpretations of the social model would argue, there is an interaction between impairment and social environment. There is currently no ‘cure’ for the impairments of AS, and many people in the autism community are offended by the suggestion that AS should be cured, given its associated strengths and its inseparability from a person’s identity. Therefore, it seems that the greatest potential for intervention is located in the social environment, and this is also where the moral imperative for change lies. In accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, reasonable adjustments should be made to accommodate those with AS in society. These adjustments could be through alterations to the environment to avoid sensory overload, through the use of clear visual communication methods (e.g. TEACCH), or through the use of computer technology, such as the internet or virtual reality environments, to aid communication (Mitchell et al., 2007; Moore et al., 2005). Rather than aiming to change individuals with AS, we ‘neurotypicals’ have a responsibility to try to see the world through the eyes of those with AS and to reduce the social barriers that contribute to their disability. After all, we are the ones without any empathy difficulties, aren’t we? Louise Elliman is a PhD student at Leeds Metropolitan University email@example.com
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Psychology across the generations Sarah Marzillier in conversation with her father John Marzillier
n April 2010 my father, John Marzillier, Icareer published a book recounting his 37-year as a clinical psychologist. In The
When his book came out, the editor of The Psychologist suggested that it might be interesting to for me, as his daughter and a psychologist, to interview him.
Gossamer Thread: My Life as a Psychotherapist, he takes the reader along When you set out you were a big fan of on his journey from a naive young NHS behaviour therapy. Why did you psychologist who believed behaviour change? Did you become disillusioned therapy was the answer to all with the behavioural approach? psychological ills, to his later work as Not disillusioned with the methods. I a private psychotherapist integrating think behavioural methods can at times ideas from psychodynamic and cognitive be helpful. It was the claim that it was theories. The title itself reflects the important but often fragile relationship between a person seeking help and the individual trying to understand them. One of the most interesting elements of the book is the fact that he has trained within so many different approaches, including behaviour therapy, cognitive therapy, cognitiveanalytic therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy. For psychologists, this professional journey and the conclusions it has led him to make fascinating John and Sarah Marzillier reading. For me, the most enjoyable aspect of the book is that it is very much a personal somehow ‘scientific.’ This is the same mistake made by cognitive therapists journey. He writes about his own feelings today, claiming that the methods have and experiences in the therapist’s chair been proved effective. The idea that (and outside of it) in a frank and any form of psychotherapy can be entertaining manner. Growing up with a psychologist father scientifically justified or proven to was all I have ever known, so it is difficult work is, to my mind, a delusion, to identify how that may have affected my a misunderstanding of both the nature of science and of psychotherapy. childhood. In fact not only is my father a clinical psychologist, but my mother is In your memoir you describe your very too. Somehow my sister Kate managed to first therapy case, Peter, who had a escape the world of significant silences fear of using public toilets. What did and unconscious desires and is a you learn from treating him? successful business-woman. However, Not much at the time to be honest! But I followed in my parents’ footsteps and looking back, I learned a lot. At first he became a clinical psychologist myself.
and I went through the rituals of the therapy but with little effect. Only when we agreed to meet in a pub – yes, a pub, one could not do that now! – did he open up to me about himself and only then did he improve. His problem was not so much the phobic anxiety but a more general unhappiness and loneliness. To ignore the possible meanings of people’s problems is, in effect, to act nonpsychologically and does a disservice to the patient. As Patrick Casement has shown in his 1991 book there is much to be learned from one’s patients if one is prepared to listen. It’s interesting that you mention Patrick Casement’s book. When I started my clinical training I was a big supporter of a scientific, cognitive approach. I happened to pick up On Learning from the Patient during my first year and it completely changed how I thought about therapy. However, I still think cognitive-behavioural approaches have their place. You have been very critical of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) approach – does that mean you don’t approve of cognitive therapy? There are many good things about cognitive therapy. I particularly value the highly structured approach to assessing and changing mood states. It opens up the possibility of choice when often patients believe they have none. That can be very therapeutic and, with a good therapist, it enables people who are stuck in their depression or anxiety or whatever to see that there other ways of thinking and acting. But a mistake can be made, similar to that in behaviour therapy, of believing the therapist has the answers, of imposing a model onto the patient, a rigidity that particularly worries me about IAPT. Don’t all psychotherapies impose a model to some degree? Yes, you are right. But good therapists, whatever their persuasion, will listen to their patients and respond according to the individual in front of them. You need time to do that and it is a particular skill to do it well. If you are told you have four to six sessions to get people better, and that cognitive therapy techniques are what you have to do because they ‘work,’ then, quite simply, the model is imposed.
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When I started out I found clinical psychology quite frightening because it seemed so amorphous, with no clarity about what we should be doing, or even what goal we were aiming for in therapy. If I had to pin down one thing I learned from my training, I would say it was probably the ability to exist in a state of not knowing – and allowing myself to realise that often there are no clear answers. Is there one piece of advice you would give to novice therapists? I agree about the value of not knowing. My advice would be to try not to do too much too soon. The tendency when starting off is to rush in to help. But you can often help people better if you hold back at first. The key to any successful therapy is understanding. Give yourself time to work out what is going on. Suggest taking two to three sessions before starting any formal therapy and you will be amazed what a difference it makes. Do you recall one moment in your professional life that really affected you personally? Two moments, one bad, one good. One morning I got a phone call from a GP who said Leone, one of my patients, had killed herself. She was someone I knew very well – I had seen her off and on for four years – and I had no inkling that she would do this. It was an awful moment and I describe how it felt in my memoir and what led up to it. It’s the irrevocable nature of suicide that is hard to bear, knowing that you won’t see the person again. The second was severely depressed medical student, a young woman, who I was seeking to help in conjunction with a psychiatrist who looked after her medication. I took a chance and set up a meeting with her father, a doctor, and at last she was able to say how angry she was
with him for something that happened when she was 14. Her anger got through to him and he took it on board. It was a very moving session. It underlined the value of bringing others into therapy and of sometimes taking risks.
you have also directly helped me in shaping my thinking. Your recent interest in energy psychology, for example, has opened my eyes to a different and exciting way of helping people who have been traumatised.
People often commented that it must be difficult growing up with two psychologists as parents, although in fact I think there were many positive aspects. Do you think being a psychologist affected who you are as a person and as a parent? What a question! I think being a parent was much more difficult than I first realised. There is the blithe idea that it will all come naturally. It doesn’t. I honestly do not think that being a psychologist, psychiatrist or similar is the important thing. It is more important to be loving and attentive to the other’s needs. I never thought of myself in relation to you and Kate as a psychologist, just a dad.
I am really pleased that you have begun to be interested in energy psychology approaches. As you know they have helped me so much personally. I have seen how effective they can be first hand. It is also nice for me to introduce you to something new – just as you have taught me a great deal over the years. But I am near the start of my career, while you’ve finished your work as a psychotherapist. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently? Can I put it differently – what things I regret doing or not doing? I was around at the beginning of sports psychology. In the late 1970s two of my students at Birmingham went to work with Bobby Robson. I was interested but let the interest slip. I love sport and it would have been a challenge to apply psychology in a sporting context. Where I did take a risk was leaving my job as the Head of the Oxford Clinical Psychology course and setting up in private practice as a psychotherapist. That was a huge wrench and, more than once, I wondered if I’d done the right thing. But it brought me great satisfaction and I valued my complete independence.
But what about you as a person? That’s more difficult to answer. In my memoir I say how I started out in psychology because I was interested in the mind. I still am. Psychology didn’t put me off at least! Working as a psychotherapist made me more sensitive to the way people are, an empathy that I might not have had, or not to that extent, if I had done something else. But it’s an impossible question so let me turn it back on you. Do you think being a psychologist has affected you as a person? I think it has affected me. There is a part of me, and I think of you, that is very competitive and would have thrived in a high-prestige career like medicine or law. At times I would have felt more comfortable because those jobs appear to have more certainties than psychology, and you probably remember from when I was young that I have always liked to be in the right! However, I think psychology taught me that certainties are really myths that we tell ourselves to help ourselves feel better about an uncertain world. I think that has helped me to be more accepting towards others and ultimately myself. I know the highly competitive part! Where did you get that from, I wonder? I am delighted psychology has helped you personally as it did me. It is not just to do with therapy either. We both share an interest in models of the mind, seeking to understand human behaviour, aware that people sometimes foreclose on that too quickly (the value of uncertainty). But
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What about the future? Are you a psychologist or a writer now? A bit of both. My next book is on how people respond to unexpected major traumas. It is based on interviews I have had with survivors of events like the London bombings of 2005. In the book I shall also sift the psychological and psychiatric literature on trauma and present what we know and what we don’t know. Like my memoir it will be written in a way that is accessible to the general reader. In fact, Sarah, I am banking on it becoming a bestseller so that you don’t have to keep me in my old age! I’ll happily go along with that!
You wrote a piece with John Hall in The Psychologist (May 2009) in which you were very critical of IAPT. Although many people agreed with you, you also got a lot of flak for it. Did you expect such a response? John and I felt very passionate about IAPT and we wanted to express our serious misgivings with it. I wasn’t surprised at the anger it provoked among my former colleagues. After all, many psychologists have invested a great deal in IAPT. I am aware that people’s core beliefs are not changed by rational argument alone. I didn’t expect people to turn round and say we were right. But sometimes you have to say clearly what you believe, especially when something is transparently wrong, as we believe IAPT to be.
Casement, P. (1991). Learning from the patient. New York: Guilford Press. John Marzillier’s website can be found on www.johnmarzillier.com The gossamer thread: My life as a psychotherapist is available now from Karnac Books. (NB. The names of the patients mentioned in this article have been changed)
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The British Psychological Society
President’s column Gerry Mulhern
President Dr Gerry Mulhern
Contact Gerry Mulhern via the Society’s Leicester office, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
President Elect Professor Noel Sheehy Vice President Sue Gardner Honorary General Secretary Professor Pam Maras Honorary Treasurer Dr Richard Mallows Chair, Membership and Professional Training Board Dr Peter Banister Chair, Psychology Education Board Professor Dorothy Miell Chair, Research Board Professor Judi Ellis Chair, Publications and Communications Board Dr Graham Powell Chair, Professional Practice Board Dr Carole Allan The Society has offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and London, as well as the main office in Leicester. All enquiries should be addressed to the Leicester office (see inside front cover for address). The British Psychological Society was founded in 1901, and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1965. Its object is ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied and especially to promote the efficiency and usefulness of Members of the Society by setting up a high standard of professional education and knowledge’. Extract from The Charter
ater, water everywhere, nor any drop In a general sense, the BPS will support to drink. Seldom was Samuel Taylor IUPsyS’s capacity building through its role as the Coleridge’s maxim more apt than for so-called UK adhering body, delegated to act on the people of Northern Ireland, myself included, behalf of the Royal Society which is formally the over the festive season. Tens of thousands of UK member of IUPsyS. However, my personal homes had their water supplies cut off as view is that, as an organisation, we should be reservoirs were emptied due to a catastrophic seeking to do much more, including the use failure of the infrastructure following the coldest of some of our resources for capacity building. December on record. Long lines of the great As President, I was pleased to have had the unwashed (literally) queuing at bowsers and opportunity to raise the issue with the recently standpipes, like extras in some Alaskan postinstalled President of the Psychological Society apocalyptic movie. I blame global warming! of Ireland (PSI), Mary Morrissey, who expressed Northern Ireland Water may regret not great interest in taking forward joint initiatives having had a psychologist among its senior around capacity building. I plan to meet Mary staff. The greatest challenges were again soon to flesh out not those of repairing the leaks or the detail. restoring supply, but the need to Of course, our “we should strengthen communicate, reassure and protect international role and our international the vulnerable. Take the case of the responsibility extends relationships through 90-year-old woman who had an beyond capacity building. Memoranda of Action” ample supply of bottled water Elsewhere I have expressed delivered to her. Some time later, the opinion that the Society a visit by the Red Cross revealed has generally underperformed that the unfortunate nonagenarian did not have internationally. Admittedly, we have worked the grip strength to unscrew the stubborn bottle effectively within the European Federation of tops, an experience not unfamiliar to many of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA). However, the more able bodied among us. our other activities have been largely confined The affair is of course a salutary reminder of to the appointment of representatives to various the fundamental importance of basic utilities to international committees and the signing of any society’s capacity to function, and of our Memorandums of Understanding with several moral responsibility to assist in building fellow societies. My sense is that little use has capacity in developing countries and countries been made of the work of our international in transition. But surely such responsibility representatives and, although our memoranda extends beyond the provision of basic physical have been useful in cementing relationships needs. As the second largest psychological with others, their practical impact has been learned society and professional body on the limited. Our Memorandum of Cooperation with planet, do we not have a responsibility to PSI has proved more useful; for example, in contribute to capacity building in psychology streamlining applications to one society from in those countries where the discipline is less members of the other. But we can do much well founded? I believe so, as do others to more. In particular, we should strengthen our whom I have spoken during my tenure. international relationships through Memoranda The International Union of Psychological of Action, rather than understanding, a phrase Science (IUPsyS) currently has a Standing for which I must thank Pam Maras. Committee on Capacity Building and a National Currently, Trustees are reviewing our Capacity Building Workgroup. It is a happy international activities with a view to making coincidence that the Workgroup is chaired by more explicit everything we currently do, Pam Maras, our Honorary General Secretary, considering how we might improve the although I must stress that this is entirely in effectiveness of these activities, and potentially Pam’s role as an elected member of the IUPsyS extending the range of our international Executive Committee. Until 2012 the regions involvement. Without wishing to prejudge targeted for national capacity building are anything, I see the way forward as through a Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, cultural shift within the Society and a significant Eastern Europe (defined by Council of Europe increase in our international budget. boundaries), India, and the ASEAN countries. As ever, your views are welcome.
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Free journals access for members From January 2011, members of the Society will have free online access to all articles in all of the Society’s 11 journals. In addition, BPS members are able to access journal content from 32 other Wiley-Blackwell journals, including Applied Cognitive Psychology, Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, Developmental Science, Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, and many more. To access all journal content, please go to www.bps.org.uk/journals and follow
links to ‘Free Online Access’ there. Lucy Abbott, Associate Journals Publishing Manager for Wiley-Blackwell, said: ‘Wiley-Blackwell are delighted to be offering this package exclusively to BPS members, with the view to furthering the availability of and access to leading psychological research and enhancing the benefits that BPS members get as part of their commitment to the Society.’ Gerry Mulhern, Society President, added: ‘This is a significant benefit to members made possible by the our
partnership with Wiley-Blackwell. Over the coming months, members can expect to see the Society's journals go from strength to strength through our association with such a leading journal publishing partner.’
Distinguished Contributions to Professional Psychology 2010 brought together in setting up the Charlie Waller Institute ‘has Professor Roz Shafran, who holds the Charlie Waller Chair of become a model, with enquiries about the operation of the Evidence-based Psychological Treatment at the University of organisation from across the country’. Reading, has won the Society’s 2010 Award for Distinguished Professor Shafran first studied Psychology at Oxford, graduating Contributions to Professional Psychology. This mid-career award with a rare Congratulatory First. She then worked as is made each year to recognise and a research assistant at the University of British celebrate a psychologist who has made an Columbia, and Professor Emeritus Stanley Rachman outstanding contribution to professional recalls: ‘Within six months she was planning and practice. supervising the design and conduct of complex Nominating her for the award, experiments.’ Professor Emeritus Stanley Rachman from She then returned to London and completed her the University of British Columbia described PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry. In 1997 Professor Professor Shafran as ‘an outstanding Shafran won the Society’s Award for Outstanding scholar and a brilliant and extraordinarily Doctoral Research Contributions to Psychology and productive clinical researcher’. in 1999 obtained a doctorate in clinical psychology Professor Shafran is best known for from the Society. She was awarded two Wellcome setting up the Charlie Waller Institute of Trust Fellowships before taking up her current chair Evidence-based Psychological Treatment – at Reading. a joint initiative between the Charlie Waller Professor Shafran has contributed to more than Memorial Trust, Reading University and 30 peer-reviewed articles and seven book chapters, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation as well as being the joint author of the books Trust. It was launched by Lord Layard and Cognitive-behavioural Processes Across Disorders: Professor David Clark in January 2007, A Transdiagnostic Approach to Research and when Aaron T. Beck said: ‘The aims of the Treatment (OUP, 2004) and Overcoming Perfectionism Institute are laudable and will set a (2010). She is associate editor of the journal standard for the rest of the field.’ Behaviour Research and Therapy, a scientific co-chair Another of Professor Shafran’s Professor Roz Shafran of he British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive nominators, Dr Warren Mansell from www.reading.ac.uk/charliewaller Psychotherapies and a member of its scientific the University of Manchester, says of the committee. Institute: ‘This non-profit organisation is Professor Emeritus Stanley Rachman says: the only one to train therapists in any ‘Originality is a striking feature of her work, and remarkably this psychological intervention with sound scientific support, as opposed is evident in both her specialities – anxiety disorders and eating to a particular mode of intervention such as cognitive-behaviour disorders. Her publications are so extensive that it is difficult to therapy. It is unique in that only the world leaders who have single out the most valuable, but in my opinion her analysis of the developed and evaluated the treatment are invited to provide the cognitive biases that sustain obsessive-compulsive disorders, and training.’ play a part in maintaining eating disorders, are exceptionally fine.’ Dr Mansell also says that the collaboration between a charity, Jonathan Calder the NHS and a higher education institution that Professor Shafran
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Young, gifted and… surprisingly unpredictable Since 1974 Joan Freeman has been researching a large sample of young British people identified at an early age as being highly able, now mainly in their forties. Major scientific findings from this unique longitudinal study have been published in previous books and articles. This latest book contains no numbers or statistics. Rather, Joan Freeman has presented 20 in-depth portraits, drawing on extensive interviews with participants and their parents, collected over many years. Each of the vignettes in this book is written in the form of a biographical sketch, interspersed with substantial extracts from interviews with the participants and their parents. These are not, however, impersonal accounts. The author writes: ‘I’ve played much more of a part in most of the participants’ lives than researchers usually do – something between a mother confessor and a watchful god-fairy…’ This means that the stories are written with real empathy and affection, and one gets a real sense of the author as an interlocutor, bringing her own personal judgements to bear. Only a few of her sample have achieved adult eminence, and Freeman provides graphic examples of the multiple factors which impact on life out-turns for individuals. She writes: ‘The complexities, interactions and unexpected turns of these life stories are all here… – the put downs, the strivings, the doubts, disappointments and depression, the highs, the parents who pressed too hard, the myths, the unstoppable urge to create, Gifted Lives: What Happens conflicting career choices, and strokes of luck seen and taken.’ When Gifted Children Grow In particular these stories show the enormous value of tracking the Up same set of individuals over decades. Without this long-term study we Joan Freeman would never have known that a brilliant young woman, who got a scholarship to Oxford University at the age of 16 was then beset by depression, fell into a disastrous love affair, barely scraped a third class degree, and eventually found fulfilment in traditional family life (bringing up children and supporting her husband’s career). Another was identified as musically gifted in childhood, suffered consistent bullying at school, which caused him to underperform at A-levels. He scraped into university to study philosophy, contracted AIDS during a brief love affair, began a successful career as a project manager for a computer company in Holland, but illness forced him to come back to the UK, where he has now gone back to university and is studying for a degree in physiotherapy, notable as one of the longest-surviving adults living with AIDS. Again and again in this book, the stories surprise and confound. No one reading this book could possibly come away with simple prejudices unchallenged. Do most gifted people have easy lives? No. Does the career direction for most gifted children become obvious in childhood? No. Does intellectual maturity go along with emotional maturity? No. In many ways, this book is written for anyone, not particularly psychologists. It shares some of the characteristics that has made the work of Oliver Sacks so popular. These are rich, idiosyncratic case studies, where individual differences are as compelling as the similarities. One could perhaps criticise a certain over-involvement with the material – which leads to some blurring of observation and judgement. There is also, perhaps, insufficient explanation regarding why these 20 individuals were selected from the larger sample. But these are minor quibbles when set against the sheer scope and depth of the enterprise. Previous work by this extraordinarily dedicated and humane scholar reflected the orientation of scientist and educationalist, the current volume reflects the biographer and advocate, determined to show that each life has extraordinary worth and richness. These true stories contain lessons for us all about what it is to have, and respond to, special qualities. These are qualities that both enrich, but also challenge, their possessors and those who care about them. I Routledge; 2011; Pb £9.95 Reviewed by John Sloboda who is Research Professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Keele University
Invaluable Psychology in the Real World: Community-Based Groupwork Guy Holmes This lively and thoughtful book describes the community-based groups and courses that clinical psychologist Guy Holmes and colleagues have developed over the last 10 years. Founded upon the central of insight of community psychology – that personal distress owes most to the kind of world in which people live – these projects have brought mental health service users and lay people together with the aims of helping them to better understand their toxic mental environments, to combat stigma and to seek stronger representation in the health services, and beyond. The author sets out the clinical framework for these groups by way of an accessible and entertaining discussion of the relevant scientific and philosophical literature. All of it interwoven with a refreshingly candid discussion of the practicalities, rewards and challenges involved. So much more than just another group work ‘cookbook’, this volume will be invaluable to mental health service users, health and social care professionals and local people who are interested in putting community psychology ideas into practice, and to anyone who has ever asked themselves about the causes of unhappiness in our society. I PCCS Books; 2010; Pb £19.99 Reviewed by Paul Moloney who is a counselling psychologist in Birmingham
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Enlightening easy read
Unaccustomed as I am…
The Basics of Psychotherapy: An Introduction to Theory and Practice Bruce E. Wampold
Public Speaking for Psychologists David B. Feldman & Paul J. Silvia
The Psychology of Sailing Ian Brown
This short volume was commissioned as the first in a series of 24 books exploring different theories of psychotherapy. Here Wampold succinctly reprises some of the ideas and evidence he put forward in ‘The Great Psychotherapy Debate’. His core argument: In psychotherapy, theory matters in terms of its function but not its content. Clients (and therapists too) need a cogent and adaptive explanation of their difficulties and a set of procedures consistent with that explanation. Theory provides these. Without it, he argues, there isn’t therapy. However, for Wampold, the explanation and set of procedures adopted is a matter of preference not a matter of truthfulness or effectiveness. As in his earlier volume, his constant appeal is to the empirical evidence – here updated but essentially confirming previous findings. For those still baffled and bemused by the proliferation of therapies and their claims, this easy read may be enlightening. It acts as a provocation, both to those who are wedded to particular techniques and to those who only consider the therapeutic relationship divorced from a theoretical base.
As a newly minted lecturer with a fear of public speaking, I eagerly awaited the publication of Feldman and Silvia’s book Public Speaking for Psychologists: A Lighthearted Guide to Research Presentations, Job Talks, and Other Opportunities to Embarrass Yourself! – and I was not disappointed. Although light – weighing in at 160 pages – this book is filled with essential information for graduate students or earlycareer academics. The first part deals with general principles of public speaking – designing your talk with your audience in mind, how to deal with difficult questions, how to manage pretalk anxiety, etc. – alleviating many irrational fears we hold. The second part provides guidance for specific situations. Are you looking for your first academic post, and fear the interview presentation? Are you a graduate student presenting a poster? Or are you an earlycareer researcher who has realised you can’t present posters at conferences for ever – and submitted an abstract for a talk!? (I can sympathise with the latter.) If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, get this book – Feldman and Silvia write in an engaging manner, and their practical advice will more than repay an afternoon’s read.
I American Psychological Association; 2010; Pb £23.50 Reviewed by Jonnie Raynes who is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital
I American Psychological Society; 2010; Pb £28.50 Reviewed by James A. Grange who is a lecturer in the School of Psychology, Keele University
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Written by a chartered sports psychologist who himself participates in sailing boat racing, this book aims to teach dinghy and keelboat sailors the mental skills to help them improve their performance and win. It achieves its aims admirably in an unobtrusive way, keeping psychological jargon to a minimum so that, reassuringly, much of what he writes reads like enlightened common sense. The reader of this book is helped to develop the skills that constitute a winning mindset in addition to the more self-evident requirements, such as physical fitness, rig adjustment and boat handling skills, knowledge and application of the racing rules. Racing in sailing boats is arguably one of the most complex sports to master. No two races are ever the same, the sea state, tides and wind are constantly changing, and success in the sport requires the competitor to analyse a multitude of ever-changing data
from the meteorological and geographical to what others in the race are doing, and to respond appropriately in a wide variety of ways. Championships consist of several races held over a number of days so maintaining focus, staying in the here and now during a race, a professional approach and confidence are crucial, just some of the skills this highly practical book aims to teach. The author's knowledge of the demands unique to sailing as a sport are clear from his use of apposite illustrations in the exercises with which each chapter ends. I now have a book to recommend to sailing friends who ask 'Can psychology help me improve my racing results?' I Adlard Coles Nautical; 2010; Pb £14.99 Reviewed by Colin Newman formerly Executive Secretary of the BPS, who since retirement has achieved several sailing successes, including 2006 European Champion, in the International Canoe, one of the fastest single-handed sailing dinghies
Sample titles just in: Setting Up in Independent Practice Robert Bor & Anne Stokes The Psychology of Social and Cultural Diversity Richard J. Crisp (Ed.) Rationality and the Pursuit of Happiness Michael E. Bernard Working with Fathers Jennifer Walters Being There Together: Social Interaction in Virtual Environments Ralph Schroeder For a full list of books available for review and information on reviewing for The Psychologist, see www.bps.org.uk/books Send books for potential review to The Psychologist, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester LE1 7DR
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Twin paths from psychology Clare O’Loghlen and her twin sister Maeve O’Loghlen on alternative routes from shared origins
lare O’Loghlen contacted us to propose an article on working in medical research. She mentioned that her twin sister Maeve had also studied psychology, but had chosen a career in HR. This is not a stringent twin research project – in fact Maeve and Clare are involved in such studies, via www.twinsuk.ac.uk – but it does highlight how similar starting points can lead to very different career destinations.
Psychology appealed to me as a university subject for several reasons. I enjoyed both
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arts and science, so psychology seemed an ideal compromise, combining strands of several of my favourite subjects (philosophy, mathematics and biology) and requiring skills in both numeracy and literacy. After my BSc in psychology at the University of York, I viewed the subject as a science, but one with a vital philosophical element that makes it unlike any other. I was interested in three chartered psychologist roles: clinical, health and research. I already had some experience of research over-and-above my undergraduate coursework. At the beginning of the second year of my course, I asked if I could do any work in the department during the Easter and summer holidays. This led to an undergraduate bursary from the Nuffield Foundation to work as a research assistant on a psycholinguistics project. Throughout my course, I also regularly volunteered as a participant for departmental research, which gave me an alternative perspective to that offered by academic study. In my first year postgraduation, I worked as an administrative assistant for the North Yorkshire Health Protection Unit, a branch of the Health Protection Agency, where I learnt about health surveillance and
public health. This helped me to secure a place on an MSc in health psychology at the University of Bath. The course included a four-month university- and hospital-based placement, which introduced me to research in the NHS, and highlighted the differences and similarities compared to research in a purely academic setting. This proved an excellent foundation for future work. Following the MSc, I became research administrator for a multi-centre Parkinson’s disease study in south Wales. Whilst this was ostensibly a low-level administrative position, it proved to be a great learning experience, and taught me that good administration is critical to successful research. The work was varied, crossing university/NHS, primary/ secondary care, professional and disciplinary boundaries. It required collaboration with a wide range of partners, from academics and clinicians at differing stages of their careers, to administrators, patients, carers and volunteers. This variety is common across many clinical research roles, making the field an appealing alternative for those, like me, who prefer more structure and social contact than that provided by a purely academic post. I moved on to become Clinical Studies Officer for the Clinical Research Collaboration in Wales (CRC Cymru). This collaboration is the Welsh branch of a recent, UK-wide development of clinical research networks by the respective Departments of Health. The networks have provided an ongoing source of vacancies for psychology graduates, including many Clinical Studies/Trials Officer posts across the UK. I helped with both commercial and academic research in three of ten thematic networks: mental health, learning disabilities and autism, and dementias and neurodegenerative diseases. I supplemented my experience in these jobs with voluntary work – first with the Alzheimer’s Society, then the Stroke Association, and finally the National Autistic Society. I enjoyed this
member-only benefits as the site develops over the coming years. Please let the Managing Editor know what features you would appreciate, on email@example.com. Please help us to spread the word. Recruiters can post online from just £750, and at no extra cost when placing an ad in print. For more information, see p.142.
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work and gained a lot of useful insight from it, but ultimately felt that direct care or treatment of those with difficulties relevant to psychology was not my main area of strength. I discovered that certain aspects of my personality – being dynamic, meticulous and hyper-organised – could be particularly useful in the right role. These traits, combined with my interest and training in psychological research, made me suited to a career as a research manager: overseeing and coordinating research without necessarily creating and carrying it out on the ground. Clinical (medical) research in particular requires such coordination and management, because it spans so many individuals, groups and institutions, and is so tightly regulated. A particularly insightful manager spotted my enjoyment of this type of role whilst I was a clinical studies officer, and enabled me to develop it by taking on informal management responsibilities. I soon moved to the coordinating centre for all the UK clinical research networks (the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network Coordinating Centre) to take up the post of Specialty Groups Coordinator. This involved coordinating 26 groups of clinical academics from across the UK, each focusing on improving the delivery of a national portfolio of research within a particular specialty. I learnt in detail about national initiatives being developed to address current issues in clinical research, such as improving delivery and streamlining approvals processes. It was a fast-paced, stimulating and challenging role that brought me in to contact with talented people from across the UK. My current role is Research and Development Manager for three primary care organisations in the North East. The job involves collaborating with clinicians from across the region to develop and deliver clinical research, budget management, management of research staff, and some governance work. I still draw upon psychology in my everyday work – whether in assessing research proposals, dealing with difficult individuals or addressing organisational issues. Psychology graduates are particularly well placed to work in clinical research. Whilst the primary focus of both medical and psychological research is human beings, psychology graduates tend to have a much better grounding in core research skills (including the principles of good experimental design, data analysis and research ethics) than clinicians, whose training is inevitably more practitioneroriented. Once psychology graduates
FEATURED JOB Job Title: Lecturer / Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology Employer: Teesside University alking about this job on the phone, both Victoria Heckels and Helen Dudiak radiated huge enthusiasm for Teesside University, its approach and its location. ‘In 2009, Teesside was the first modern university to receive the University of the Year award in the Times Higher Education awards. Our approach is reflected in the make up of our undergraduate and postgraduate psychology courses.’ The undergraduate course moves from critical thinking about psychology and what psychology is, through theoretical approaches, introducing different types of psychology practice through core and optional modules. Victoria comments, ‘We have particular strengths in forensic, counselling and health psychology though obviously we offer other courses.’ Finally, and most interestingly, the undergraduate course offers a very applied element. One question comes up frequently in this section of The Psychologist: How do students find out what it’s really like to work as a particular type of psychologist? Helen comments: ‘We cooperate with the police, prison services and the NHS on both joint research and teaching. This allows us to have “We cooperate with the a number of non-academic guest lecturers who police, prison services can paint a picture of life in the real world. Many and the NHS” students enter the course with only the haziest idea of what forensic psychology involves. Sometimes they’re influenced by TV and film portrayals of the role. By the end of the course they’ll have a really fine-grained, realistic view.’ Helen describes the sort of person they’re looking for. ‘He or she will have GBC eligibility and contribute to core BPS lectures and seminars at undergraduate and postgraduate levels as well as tutoring dissertations. We’ve said we want someone who is research active: our courses are practical and student-centred but researchdriven. Getting that balance right is essential. So, we want someone who comes with their own research interests, who’s committed to using that in their work with students. In return, you get to work in a team of around 30, ranging from new academics to very experienced professors. Continuing development is embedded in the way we work – a number of staff have been supported to finish their PhDs while working in the department, for instance. And you’ll get a chance to expand your teaching and academic experience: I’ve been here for 11 years and I was supported to complete my PhD and PGCE, participated in an academic leadership programme, ran the clinical doctorate programme for a while and now have a responsibility for quality enhancement across the school.’ Helen makes a final point: ‘Middlesbrough is a town that is really transforming itself – committed to innovative and world-class regeneration. It is at the heart of a beautiful part of the country, and Teesside is a wonderful place to live and work.’
You can find this job on p.143, and with many others on www.psychapp.co.uk.
learn the additional requirements and systems for medical (as opposed to psychological) research, they can combine this with their academic expertise to act as a vital link between academia and the NHS. Such a role requires recognition of the importance of both research and the protection of patient welfare, and balancing of these (sometimes competing!) priorities. The appeal of this kind of work lies in its variety – of people, topics, methods and settings. It
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requires a combination of scientific rigour and the art of dealing with people, and so is attractive to those who are neither artsnor science-focused – such as psychology graduates. Challenges of working in the field include a widespread lack of recognition of the importance of good administration and management to successful research, which can lead to an undervaluing of the role; and the fact that, as neither a clinician nor bona-fide academic, one can be under-appreciated from both sides!
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Maeve’s story When I chose to study psychology, I knew that I didn’t intend to become a therapist. I thought I didn’t yet have the life experience or emotional maturity. It was more a question of matching a subject to my interests. I was a generalist. Like Clare, I didn’t think of myself as particularly arts- or science-minded though I was particularly interested in biology, philosophy and the human sciences. Right from the start I thought psychology could be used in a wide range of jobs. In fact I even put that in my application for my degree course. Most of my education was in English when I did a Baccalaureate at a European School, in Brussels. Like the rest of my peers, I wanted to study in an Englishspeaking country and experience living somewhere outside of Belgium, so I applied to universities in both the UK and Ireland. Although I was born in Brussels, I have Irish nationality, so I was keen on doing my studies in Ireland, but in the end I chose a course in the UK. You could do several different psychology degrees at Sussex, in both the arts and science schools. I did mine in the School of Biological Sciences. I was
surprised at some of the content: animal behaviour, and memory and perception for instance. I expected more on psychotherapy. Overall the approach suited me. In the second year I chose some modules in the Arts school: consumer and economic psychology, for instance. I wrote an essay on how couples make economic decisions. I also became fascinated by the psychobiology of addiction and neuropsychology. I somewhat regret not having learnt more about psychotherapy techniques: I think they can enrich coaching, which is something I would like to get more involved in later on in my career. In fact during my degree I attended a series of extra-curricular workshops in systemic therapy. It looks at relationships between people rather than inside processes and can be used with families and organisations. I found that fascinating. After my degree, I mainly considered marketing and human resources, although I was worried about the amount of administration there might be in HR. I worked for a while as a PR consultant, but wasn’t convinced it was exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t enjoy writing press releases for products I didn’t feel a lot for. But I did enjoy corporate
Speaking the language of learning Michelle Kendel, a second-year undergraduate at the University of Reading, spoke to The Psychologist about how her background has influenced her interests ’m Norwegian by birth but my dad was a director at ADRA – an international development NGO – so we lived in lots of places, including Pakistan. But we were most often based in Norway and England – my parents have settled here now – and we spoke English at home. I speak two languages and am quite fluent in both, so I have a natural interest in bilingualism. I’ve also never forgotten a story my mother read to me as a child about a child
in hospital. The child’s fear when going through medical treatment must have really affected me. My mother may have chosen that story because she is a registered nurse, and her experiences must have influenced my interest in physical health. Reading books by Torey Hayden, the US author and special educator was a huge influence in deciding me to study psychology. I worked as a nursery assistant and have also taken certificates in
communications when they were about something I did care about: social and environmental policies for instance. During my master’s degree in management at Bath I studied all the main areas of management, and chose to do my thesis on corporate social responsibility. I was looking for a vocational qualification which would increase my employability and give me the skills I needed to work in an entrepreneurial environment. It wasn’t easy to get a job at first. I applied for both management trainee positions and HR jobs in Belgium, and also the UK and Ireland. In the end I got a temporary job in the recruitment department of Eurocontrol, a public sector body which controls air traffic over Europe. Then I moved to Virgin Express which merged with SN Brussels Airlines to become Brussels Airlines while I was employed there. Virgin Express’s HR team was small, dealing with 750 members of staff. The
counselling for depression, paediatric emergency first aid and child protection. All of these have given me invaluable experience. I researched university courses carefully. When it came to it, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed neuropsychology, relating parts of the brain to particular functions. I also found sports psychology very relevant – its emphasis on the relationship between anxiety and poor performance maps exactly on to my interests. I suppose I’m really concerned with children’s non-verbal communication, and therefore CBT will be of less use than techniques such as art and music therapy. I am on the lookout all the time for techniques that can be adapted to the children I’m interested in. I pick up ideas
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team was made up of a payroll manager and several payroll assistants, a recruitment manager, and a trainer. My role was to develop and extend the existing HR services. I did exit interviews; created a repertoire of job descriptions and competency maps, and introduced a coaching programme for young managers. Seven managers followed the programme, and once a month my
manager and I would give a talk on a management topic – usually after reading as much as I could lay my hands on about the area – followed by a discussion. This really developed team culture. It was very effective. I also helped with certain payroll tasks and was deputy to the recruitment manager when she was on leave. It was a great introduction to the full spectrum of HR tasks. I was also involved in the integration of the two sets of staff when Virgin Express became Brussels Airlines. They had very different cultures and I found myself increasingly going back to my psychology studies in that period, particularly in facilitating coaching programmes for managers appointed to new, more senior positions following the integration. I moved to a major Brussels bank. I hadn’t especially targeted the banking sector – I simply applied because it looked an interesting job. I found myself in a very specific company culture. The bank is the result of a large number of mergers and takeovers, and many of the staff have been there for 20–30 years. There are both positive and negative aspects to that. Although it’s quite an insular world, it’s also a very socially
students. It’s difficult not to let work and from almost every module on the course study interfere with each other – better if and, if I spot a useful idea, talk to tutors they are complementary. I did a search for and lecturers about it. Like a lot of selective mutism and came up with AACT undergraduates, I’ve found the amount of for Children, a new registered charity statistics involved surprising. I don’t really aiming to encourage children who like the research part of the course, but have difficulty communicating to use IT. I can see it’s essential to underpin the I contacted them, got an interview with theories I’m being taught, so whether Ken Carter, their founder, and am now I enjoy it is rather by the by. acting as a project officer. I can do the I never thought I’d become an work anywhere, which is marvellous. academic – my aim was always to work I’m doing lots of things, but focusing on practically with, probably, 5- to 10-yearresearch into international theories of and olds. Clinical psychology looked a good approaches to selective route but is mutism and other anxiety competitive and states that affect children’s difficult to get “I’m on the lookout all the speech and language skills. into. To work with time for techniques that can On your course you the children I’m be adapted to the children” learn what you think is interested in, I’d the best or right way to do have to step something. Specific situations outside the core need more varied responses. You also tasks of an educational psychologist. learn that while professionals have a Chartership takes a very long time. At the certain sort of knowledge, parents, clients moment I’m thinking about qualifying as and non-professionals have different, but a play therapist. I had a holiday job as equally valuable, kinds of knowledge.’ a play worker for the NHS in Reading and, I’m lucky to have a job and course that like music therapists, play therapists are support each other so well. But perhaps much more in demand in hospitals, you have to work and plan hard to get charities and clinics. lucky!’ Funding courses is a major issue for
seek and advertise at www.psychapp.co.uk
responsible company, and the staff are very loyal. Some of the staff’s jobs are being computerised, which is a problem if the staff have a low level of employability. The bank is very proactive in trying to increase the employability of its staff so it can offer them other positions within the company. I work within technology, operations and property services on talent management. In more service-oriented industries like banking and insurance it really is a war for talent: acquiring talented people, developing them and keeping them. I’ve helped to develop a retention toolkit and worked on supporting our HR business partners in talent review activities like succession planning. I have learnt that if you want to work in Belgium it helps if you speak English, French and Dutch, and you need to be good at compromise. In HR in particular, you also need a mix of soft and hard skills. It’s important to be able to listen actively, to influence others and to be flexible. But you also need to have specific knowledge in areas such as tax and employment law, for example, to establish credibility. You need to be good at figures as well because you’re going to be involved in quite complex calculations if you’re planning manpower needs or calculating salary budgets. Some HR roles have links with psychology and psychotherapy, but not all of them. The difference is that HR is set in an organised corporate environment and requires a balance between employee and employer interests. HR activities are set in a financial or performance-related context, and its activities are driven by these constraints. Most applied psychologies, on the other hand, have a fundamental loyalty to the person in front of them. You need to create trust with that person. An HR person needs to create trust both with employees and with employers, a loyalty to both sides. One of the difficult aspects of working in HR is that to be a successful mediator between an employer and its employees, you can’t be seen to have friends at work. There’s perhaps one exception: the managing director’s secretary. He or she knows everything that’s going on in the company, and doesn’t usually pose a threat to anyone. One area where psychology and HR overlap is coping with the stress caused by change. In organisations this often results from mergers and acquisitions, which are becoming more frequent. But coping with the stress of change is a skill that is useful in all areas of life, not just at work.
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Breast cancer – a voyage into hearts and minds Caroline Muttitt with the latest in our series for budding writers (see www.bps.org.uk/newvoices for more information)
y personal interest in psychology was initiated by numerous intense and challenging experiences, the most poignant of which was an extensive family history of breast cancer. This hit home during my twenties when three of my maternal aunts were diagnosed, followed by my cousin Claire. By the time I reached my thirties it became necessary to look this ‘monster’ in the eye. I wanted to know whether breast cancer was genetic within our family, and a long and enthralling personal journey ensued. I found myself with clinicians investigating my ‘cancer family tree’; and volunteered with Breast Cancer Care, which led to friendships with dozens of breast cancer survivors. I became hungry to develop my understanding of how living as a cancer ‘survivor’ can spark many diverse emotions including frustration and empowerment, as well as the paradox of feeling both overwhelming loss and extreme gratitude. I was curious as to whether returning to work facilitates or debilitates long-term recovery, and whether educating employers and fellow colleagues can help to ensure that this important milestone is a positive and enriching experience rather than a fraught and distressing one. For my undergraduate dissertation, I had the immense privilege of interviewing two men and six women who had been breast cancer ‘victims’ and were now in recovery. The continuous struggle to manage their cancer experience overlapped into all domains: emotional,
Amir, Z., Neary, D. & Luker, K. (2008). Cancer survivors’ views of work 3 years post diagnosis. Journal of Oncology Nursing, 12, 190–197. Bárez, M., Blasco, T., Fernández-Castro, J. & Viladrich, C. (2008). Perceived control and psychological distress in women with breast cancer. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 32(2), 187–196. Bower, J.E., Ganz, P.A., Desmond, K.A. et al. (2006). Fatigue in long-term breast
physical, practical (e.g. financial) and interpersonal. Being privy to such intimate, touching and overwhelmingly emotional stories was an honour. This project became more than a fact-finding mission, it was a voyage into the hearts and minds of real people. Whilst incidents of breast cancer have risen by 50 per cent in the past 25 years and are consistently increasing, survival rates are progressively positive, with mortality rates having fallen by a third since the 1980s (Cancer Research UK, 2009). Almost 50 per cent of adult survivors are below age 65, and the majority of these will return to work following treatment (IPOS 10th World Congress, 2008). Breast cancer is a complex disease and follows an unpredictable path, each person’s physical and emotional experience being unique, the impact of returning to the workplace differing enormously from person to person (Breast Cancer Care, 2008). This return is important, given that numerous studies suggest that work has special meaning for those with cancer: it is synonymous with feelings of hope, interdependence, enhanced pride and selfesteem (Ferrell et al., 1997; Peteet, 2000; Rasmussen & Elverdam, 2008). Unfortunately, medical advice in relation to making a smooth transition to work and coping adequately on the return is both ambiguous and limited (Amir et al., 2008; Main et al., 2005). For the men and women I spoke to, reasons for wanting to go back included
carcinoma survivors. A longitudinal investigation. Cancer, 106(4), 751–758. Brain, K., Williams, B., Iredale, R. et al. (2006). Psychological Distress in Men With Breast Cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 24(1), 95–101. Breast Cancer Care. (2008). The EMPLOY Charter – Breast Cancer Care’s guide to best practice in the workplace [Electronic version]. Policy Briefing. Cancer Research UK (2009). Cancer stats:
a need to focus away from their cancer, regaining a sense of normality and recovery; confirming previous findings (Amir et al., 2008; Kennedy et al., 2007; Peteet, 2000). Three of those I questioned wanted to return more quickly than encouraged. While the majority enjoyed a positive relationship with their colleagues, six of the eight participants described their work demands pre-diagnosis as highly stressful. Difficulties following return were predominately due to changes of job role, staff, clientele, or alterations to the regime implemented made whilst they were away. But how is this experience different for a cancer survivor than for someone returning after maternity leave, or a year exploring a foreign country? Further research should examine in what unique ways such natural alterations affect cancer survivors on their return, as these shifting patterns may strongly impact (both mentally and physically) upon an individual’s ability to recover. Many of the survivors voiced their appreciation for the support they received from work colleagues, which was on the whole beneficial. The cancer information service Cancerbackup has advised that when cancer survivors are offered highquality emotional and practical support at work, they are more effective at managing health issues. Those who do not receive advice concerning the management of tasks are four times more likely to feel their work life has declined. Five of my interviewees were offered either a phased return to work, or a degree of initial flexibility in relation to their working hours. On the negative side, some described a lack of constructive assistance and received no emotional outlet, despite being in careers that involved providing support to others. Since these incidents occurred, the Disability Discrimination Act has been updated specifically to include cancer survivors; it may be prudent for a study to assess whether this alteration has significantly impacted the workplace. Do cancer survivors feel able to communicate
Key facts. Retrieved 1 August 2009, from http://info.cancerreasearchuk. org/cancerstats Danish, S.J., Chopin, S.M. & Conley, K.A. (2008). Rethinking breast selfexaminations. Breast Cancer: Basic and Clinical Research, 2, 31–35. Ferrell, B.R., Grant, M.M., Funk, B. et al. (1997). Quality of life in breast cancer survivors as identified by focus groups. Psycho-oncology, 6, 13–23.
Hansen, J.A., Feuerstein, M., Calvio, L.C. & Olsen, C.H. (2008). Breast cancer survivors at work. American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Harmon, A.L., Westerberg, A.L., Bond, D.S. et al. (2005). Cancer prevention among rural youth. Journal of Cancer Education, 20(2), 103–107. Hirai, K., Suzuki, Y., Tsuneto, S. et al. (2002). A structural model of the
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their needs effectively? Do they themselves understand these needs and how they might change over time? Are feelings of vulnerability or a lack of selfconfidence barriers to asking for support in an effective way? The overwhelming side-effect described by participants was fatigue, whether as a result of surgery, chemotherapy or hormone treatment, which supports previous findings (e.g. Hansen et al., 2008; Kim et al., 2008). Fatigue can severely impact work performance, and may continue for years following treatment (Kennedy et al., 2007). Workers often require more flexibility in the nature of their tasks in order to cope. For example, a deputy headteacher reduced her hours, took regular breaks and worked more efficiently in order to manage her feelings of fatigue. Those I spoke to did not confirm previous findings that younger breast cancer survivors suffer more intensely than older candidates (Kim et al., 2008), or that the aggressiveness of treatment is a predictive factor (Bower et al., 2006). Clear differences were observed in coping ability between survivors who undertook multiple roles, and those who had adult children and reduced responsibilities. A lengthy absence and therefore the ability to fully recover, along with the ability to work part-time or phase their return, was associated with a marked reduction in these symptoms. My interviewees talked of experiencing a range of anxiety-provoking thoughts concerning their well-being. There is, however, no indication that the participants in this study who reduced their working hours, or changed their employment situation, did so because of depressive or anxious symptoms. The overwhelming issue regarding appearance
relationships among self-efficacy, psychological adjustment, and physical condition in Japanese advanced cancer patients. PsychoOncology, 11, 221–229. IPOS 10th World Congress of PsychoOncology Abstracts. (2008). Oral presentations Psycho-Oncology, 17, S1–S179. Kennedy, F., Haslam, C., Munir, F. & Pryce, J. (2007). Returning to work
was hair loss. Two participants communicated this as the most distressing experience in relation to having breast cancer, which adds credit to previous evidence (Kennedy et al., 2007; Munstedt et al., 1997). Financial pressures are common amongst cancer sufferers, with many patients reporting having to return to work despite being physically or emotionally inadequate (Amir et al., 2008; Breast Cancer Care, 2008; Kennedy et al., 2007). Most of the men and women I spoke to harboured worries over the possibility that their cancer would recur in the future, often linked to symptoms of minor illness (supporting Brain et al., 2006; Lethborg et al., 2000). Concerns seemed to abate gradually over time. Work may assist in making cancer feel like a more distant experience. This may be true following any traumatic event, however the reality that cancer may again rear its head is always lurking somewhere in the shadows, no matter how distant the initial diagnosis or how successful the treatment. All of the participants I spoke to indicated having a greater sense of mortality, and that their priorities had altered as a result. Overall, findings demonstrate that the ability to manage one’s difficulties is to some extent determined by a survivor’s perception of control over their situation (Bárez et al., 2008; Hirai et al., 2002). A ‘one size fits all’ approach may prove ineffective, due to the uniqueness of the breast cancer experience. Interventions may instead concentrate upon promoting high-quality communication between cancer patients, medical professionals and employers and ensuring that survivors can exercise appropriately guided choice and control over their treatment and working lives. Survivors themselves may need to be encouraged to voice their
following cancer. European Journal of Cancer Care, 16, 17–25. Kim, S.H., Son, B.H., Hwang, S.Y. et al. (2008). Fatigue and depression in disease-free breast cancer survivors. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 35(6), 644–655. Lethborg, C.E., Kissane, D., Burns, I. & Snyder, R. (2000). ‘Cast adrift’. The experience of completing treatment among women with early stage
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concerns and needs against a backdrop that is open and accepting. They may need permission to take backward steps as well as forward ones, due to the emotional and physical unpredictability of the cancer journey. Research should continue to emphasise the need for individuals to bridge the ‘intention–behaviour gap’ in relation to behaviours such as selfexamination, mammography uptake and seeking health advice (Danish et al., 2008; Harmon et al., 2005); especially amongst ethnic minority and disadvantaged communities. Increasing knowledge (and therefore self-esteem) may enable men and women to become more confident in observing and reporting changes within their own bodies; but will this translate into being confident to voice their own support and medical needs should cancer be found? Harmon et al. (2005) found that teaching students about their genealogical history, and therefore their susceptibility to disease, significantly increased their intention to perform self-examination. It would be interesting to determine the attitudes of those who discover they are at a ‘low’ risk, as one in every eight women in the UK general population will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer sometime in their lives. As for me, I was amazed to discover that our family history is not driven by a breast cancer gene; although my ‘familial’ make-up does not rule out the possibility that I am at a higher risk than average. At least I feel prepared to cope more adequately should I encounter such a diagnosis. Our inheritance often takes us on a voyage of discovery, and I have found facing up to the ‘monster’ enlightening and rewarding.
breast cancer. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 18(4), 73–90. Main, D., Nowels, C., Cavender, T., et al. (2005). A qualitative study of work and work return in cancer survivors. Psycho-Oncology, 14, 992–1004. Munstedt, K., Manthey, N., Sachsse, S. & Vahrson, H. (1997). Changes in selfconcept and body image during alopecia induced cancer chemotherapy. Support Care Cancer,
Caroline Muttitt is a psychological research master’s student at Sheffield Hallam University. firstname.lastname@example.org
5(2), 139–143. Peteet, J.R. (2000). Cancer and the meaning of work. General Hospital Psychiatry, 22, 200–205. Rasmussen, D.M. & Elverdam, B. (2008). The meaning of work and working life after cancer: An interview study. Psycho-Oncology, 17, 1232–1238.
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Why history of psychology is going global Adrian C. Brock on why studying our past is a dynamic and relevant endeavour
ecently I was moaning to a colleague about the fact that a new edition of the textbook that I use in my history of psychology course (Richards, 2010) had appeared and that the university library had ordered only one copy of it for the entire class. When the previous edition appeared in 2002, it had ordered 10. My colleague looked at me with surprise and said: ‘Surely the history of psychology hasn’t changed all that much since 2002!’ Perhaps the view that history of psychology does not change comes from thinking of it in terms of a story, like the story of Noah’s Ark or the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Historians might engage in debates over whether Noah was a real person and, if so, where he lived. They might also engage in debates over the origins or the authorship of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But the story stays pretty much the same. Generations of textbooks on the history of psychology have encouraged the view that they are concerned with a story and the very word, ‘history’ encompasses this word. Unfortunately it is a false and misleading view of the field. History of psychology is a small but dynamic area of research. Contributions are made to it not just by psychologists but also by professional historians, including historians of science and historians of medicine. Isolated contributions have also been made by scholars from disciplines as diverse as
Allwood, C.M. & Berry, J.W. (Eds.) (2006). Origins and development of indigenous psychologies. International Journal of Psychology, 41, 243–268. Bem, S. (2009). Internationalizing the history of psychology. But how? Theory & Psychology, 19, 441–445. Brennan, T. (2007). International rescue. The Psychologist, 20(3), 170. Brock, A.C. (Ed.) (2006). Internationalizing the history of psychology. New York:
particular community at a particular point in history considers worth remembering. This is why it is said that each generation must write history for itself. Some of the more interesting changes in the history of psychology that have occurred in recent years have been the result of demographic changes in the discipline. The most obvious example is the worldwide trend towards the ‘feminisation’ of psychology. Psychologists were predominantly male until the 1960s and then predominantly female in the 1970s and beyond. This led to changes in the discipline, such as the establishment of a division for ‘Psychology of Women’ in the American Psychological Association in 1973. As far as the history of psychology is concerned, the new female psychologists began to ask why it consisted almost entirely of men. They consequently began to produce new narratives of women in the early history
philosophy, sociology, anthropology and biology. Thus, as in most areas of psychology, new editions of textbooks on the history of psychology are needed to incorporate new research in the field. Why is there so much research if the broad outlines of the story are already known? In order to answer this question, we need to make a distinction between psychology’s history and its past. One human life would not be enough to become acquainted with everything that has happened in psychology’s past. We might also ask why anyone would want to do this: not everything that has occurred in psychology’s past is worth remembering. The content of the history books is only a small sample of that past, and its inclusion is not random or arbitrary. History has much in common with what sociologists and psychologists have termed, ‘collective memory’ (Danziger, The content of history books is only a small sample of 2008). It consists of psychology’s past, and its inclusion is not random or arbitrary the things that a
New York University Press. Buchanan, R. (2008). Review of ‘Internationalizing the history of psychology’. History of the Human Sciences, 21, 120–123. Danziger, K. (2008). Marking the mind: A history of memory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Guthrie, R.V. (1976). Even the rat was white: A historical view of psychology. New York: Harper & Row.
Hegarty, P. (2007). Review of ‘Internationalizing the history of psychology’. History and Philosophy of Psychology, 9, 73–76. Morawski, J.G. (1994). Practicing feminisms, reconstructing psychology. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Pickren, W. (2007). Review of ‘Internationalizing the history of psychology’. International Psychology Bulletin, 11, 18–19.
Richards, G.D. (2010). Putting psychology in its place: Critical historical perspectives (3rd edn). London: Routledge. Scarborough, E. & Furumoto, L. (1989). Untold lives: The first generation of American women psychologists. New York: Columbia University Press. Stevens, M.J. & Gielen, U.P. (2007). Toward a global psychology: Theory, research, intervention and pedagogy.
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of psychology and the discrimination they in the second half of the 19th century. faced. The book by Elizabeth Scarborough A large number of Americans came to and Laurel Furumoto, Untold Lives: The Europe to study this new discipline, or First Generation of American Women at least to keep themselves abreast of Psychologists (1989) is a well-known developments there. By the end of the example of the genre. first decade of the 20th century, American Another demographic change that can psychology had begun to overshadow be traced back to the 1960s is the entry of European psychology in size, and the more people from ethnic minorities into United States has been the dominant psychology. For example, an Association power in the discipline ever since. of Black Psychologists was founded in the Although this situation has not changed United States in 1968. They too began to in the last hundred years, the strength of ask why all the psychologists in the its dominance has varied enormously history textbooks were white. The end during that period. It was at its height result was the rediscovery of Africanin the years immediately after the Second American psychologists World War. Much of like Kenneth and Mamie Europe lay in ruins, Clark (e.g. Guthrie, 1976). especially Germany, “…it is said that each Perhaps even more which had had the generation must write interesting is that strongest tradition of history for itself” historians of psychology psychology in Europe from these groups have before the war. Also of gone beyond what might relevance is the fact that be called ‘compensatory history’; that is, psychology had yet to be exported to Asia, adding a few extra figures to the history Africa, Latin America and Oceania on a of psychology and leaving it at that. One large scale. The International Union of of the consequences of the entry of ethnic Psychological Science was founded in minorities into psychology was a 1951 with 11 charter members, nine of condemnation of the racism that has them in Western Europe plus the United existed in psychology’s past, such as the States and Japan. view that people of African origin were American psychology has been less intelligent than people of European declining in importance ever since. The origin because they were less successful underlying reason for this is the growth on culturally loaded tests. of psychology in countries where it hardly With very few exceptions, such as existed at the end of the Second World Lewis Terman’s masculinity-femininity War. Psychology has continued to grow in scale, psychology took little interest in the United States, but it did not have the gender until women began to enter the same room for expansion that it had in discipline in large numbers. That did not countries where the discipline and the prevent some feminists from arguing that profession had yet to be established. The mainstream psychology was based on end result is that the percentage of the male perspectives and that it would have world’s psychologists who live and work to be radically revised if it was going to in the United States has been gradually do justice to the female point of view. declining. A small but growing number of The book by Jill Morawski, Practicing American psychologists are aware of Feminisms, Reconstructing Psychology this situation and have been trying to (1994) contains this type of argument. persuade their colleagues to take a more The changes with which this article is international outlook on the field. One concerned have been slower to occur but of the results of their efforts has been the they are potentially more wide-ranging. establishment of a new division for It is well known that scientific or modern International Psychology within the APA psychology emerged in Western Europe (Division 52) in 1997, and publications such as the Handbook of International Psychology (Stevens & Wedding, 2004) and Toward a Global Psychology (Stevens Hove: Psychology Press. & Gielen, 2007). As a historian of Stevens, M.J. & Wedding, D. (Eds.) (2004). psychology, it occurred to me that Handbook of international psychology. New I could make a contribution to this York: Brunner-Routledge. new movement by providing it with Teo, T. (2007). Review of ‘Internationalizing the history of psychology’. Journal of the a more international history. History of the Behavioral Sciences, 44, I accordingly organised an edited 183–185. collection titled, Internationalizing the Whittaker, H.A. (2007). Review of History of Psychology (Brock, 2006). ‘Internationalizing the history of It contains chapters on the history of psychology’. PsycCRITIQUES, 52, 33. psychology in countries such as
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Argentina, China, India, South Africa and Turkey. Being aware of the limitations of what I have called ‘compensatory history’, I wanted to leave some space for broader issues that arose from this work. Just as feminists have argued that a psychology that was almost exclusively male led to a limited male perspective, and psychologists from ethnic minorities have argued that psychology that was almost exclusively white led to a limited white perspective, so psychologists from nonWestern countries have argued that a psychology was almost exclusively Western has led to a limited Western perspective. One consequence of the situation is the indigenisation movement in psychology, whose advocates argue that Western psychology is inappropriate for their needs and that it must be adapted to suit the local context. A more radical wing of the movement rejects Western psychology entirely and tries to build an alternative out of indigenous resources (Allwood & Berry, 2006). With the sole exception of a very hostile review by a conservative American (Whittaker, 2007), the book has sold well and met with positive reviews (e.g. Bem, 2009; Brennan, 2007; Buchanan, 2008; Hegarty, 2007; Pickren, 2007; Teo, 2007). Perhaps this type of history is the wave of the future. Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania are now important markets for psychology texts, and the people in these places are no more willing to accept a history of psychology that excludes these regions than women and members of ethnic minorities were prepared to accept a history of psychology that excluded people like themselves. It is also important to realise that substantial minorities from these places live and work in Europe and North America. Several contributors to Internationalizing the History of Psychology are psychologists from Asia, Africa and Latin America who are currently resident in Canada and the United States. As for the rest of us, the expansion of our horizons can only serve to enrich our understanding of psychology and its history. As the editor of Theory & Psychology, Hank Stam, said about Internationalizing the History of Psychology in the jacket blurb: ‘For those who wish to glimpse the future of psychology, there is no better place to begin than with this historical volume.’ History of psychology is not just of relevance to the present, it is of relevance to the future. That, I suspect, is why many of us are involved in the field. I Adrian C. Brock is in the School of Psychology at University College Dublin email@example.com
…with Margaret McAllister Educational psychologist and independent practitioner, Honorary Life Member and Past President
One inspiration The head teacher of my primary school, who recognised how much I enjoyed learning and opened up many additional opportunities to me. Nowadays we’d call this enrichment of the curriculum. This gave me an early awareness of the importance of education and the desire to be actively involved in it. One alternative career path Politics or journalism.
One book that you think all psychologists should read The Republic, Plato. It covers so many aspects of social organisation, reminding us that the fundamental questions have been addressed, just as we go on addressing them. One moment that changed the course of your career Completing my degree in modern languages. Much as I loved them (and still do), I decided to carry out further study in order to pursue a career in educational psychology. To me, language is very important. Learning to think and speak in another language is life-enhancing. This ability has enabled me to make enduring links with a number of psychologists in Europe.
Maxwell Magnus, S. & McAllister, M. (2001). The toddler book. London: Brilliant Books Ltd. ‘A very practical guide to development and behaviour, written with a journalist: an interesting collaboration.’
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demonstrate a breadth of reading and a knowledge of relevant research. However, admission to postgraduate courses is very competitive and likely to become more so in the current financial climate. If your hopes are not realised, then remember that psychology graduates are very employable across a wide range of organisations, and keep an open mind in looking at the opportunities available. One heroine Beatrice Edgell, very influential in the early years of the Society, and its first woman President.
One thing I’ve Margaret McAllister email@example.com learnt from working with children Expect the unexpected, and One cultural do not jump to conclusions. recommendation Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, One nugget of advice for for its evocation of childhood aspiring psychologists and the way in which the Focus on the course you wish author plays on the themes of to follow, and make sure you time and memory, showing are well informed about the events from different requirements. Be able to perspectives.
One regret That the history and philosophy of psychology has
One challenge you think psychology faces Access to funding affects most areas of the discipline in the public sector, whether in research, teaching or applied psychology. This challenge is likely to continue for some time, and there is a particular worry for educational psychologists working with vulnerable children and families.
One reason I’ve devoted much of my professional life to the BPS I believe strongly in ‘bringing psychology to society’. It is important that the structures of the Society are as well fitted as possible for the purpose of promoting psychology and demonstrating how much the discipline has to offer. Through my involvement I gained an excellent grounding in effective committee work, for example, considering all sides of an argument,
achieving consensus and getting things done.
largely disappeared from the university curriculum. Interestingly enough it is still being taught in many university departments of philosophy. There is a marked tendency to rely on recent sources of evidence, and a neglect of much valuable work that has gone before. I think that we need to understand much more about the origins of psychology and the evolution of the discipline to enhance our understanding of where we are now.
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This is a sample from the February issue of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. To download the whole PDF or s...
Published on Jan 19, 2011
This is a sample from the February issue of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. To download the whole PDF or s...