Post Of The Week – Thursday 5th September

1) Soda Wars

By the time you see this post, the fourth and final episode of The Men Who Made Us Thin will no longer be available. The programme looked at ways forward to deal with the crisis in obesity.

One approach which has been taken is to tax or to limit the sale of what Americans call “soda” but we call “soft drinks”. I’ve been tracking the arguments about this for the last three or four years and incorporating some of them into lessons.  This has now come to a head with a court case involving Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York.  Bloomberg sought to ban the sale of large sodas, something which the manufacturers of these drinks challenged. Here’s how the New York Daily News reported on this.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/appeals-court-upholds-ruling-striking-nyc-large-soda-ban-article-1.1412637

See also

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57596137/appeals-court-strikes-down-nyc-ban-on-large-sodas/#postComments

2) Hassles And Health

As part of the AS Stress module, we look at the effects on life events on health. By “life events”, psychologists mean the big events in people’s lives which require substantial readjustment: bereavement, losing a job, divorce, moving house. The theory is that the stress caused by the readjustment these events bring leads to negative health outcomes. “Hassles” refers to small scale events which cause stress: losing your keys, missing the bus, getting stuck in traffic. There seems to be a link between these events and negative health outcomes too. That connection is stronger than for critical life events.

This article looks at the link between such hassles and depression. Read it and try following some of the links at the bottom.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/04/can-everyday-hassles-make-you-depressed.php

3) The Upside Of Stress

In our AS course, the research is based on the idea that stress is all bad news. We start by looking at the way in which the body’s stress pathways deliver energy to fight or to run. That’s great for when humans lived as hunter-gatherers and threats were immediate and physical. We live in a world where the things which get at us are in the long term and in our minds. We go on from here to look at the way in which stress affects the immune system and on other negative effects on our health, for example from stress in the workplace.  We finish by looking at methods of managing stress management: drugs which are either addictive or do little to help or therapy which is time-consuming and expensive. Not good.

Kelly McGonigal has a different view which she presents here.

If she’s right, she’s undermining our most commonly held assumptions about stress and offering a new approach to dealing with it. See what you think.

4)  Internet Addiction

We use internet addiction as part of our unit on Addictive Behaviour to understand more about the factors which affect addiction. This news article explains how an idea which started as a joke is now the focus of a hospital treatment programme.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/hospital-opens-internet-addiction-treatment-program/story?id=20146923

5) Randomised Control Trials In Education

As part of the cognition and development topic, we look at applications of theories of cognitive development to education. One of the problems with these applications is lack of randomised control trials. When drugs are tested, some participants get a placebo. When educational initiatives are tested, nobody thinks of deliberately denying an educational initiative to a group of students simply because they have been chosen at random to be the control or placebo group. Until now, that is. This article explains what is behind the move to basing educational initiatives on statistical data.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/03/science/applying-new-rigor-in-studying-education.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

6) Music And The Brain

Not part of our course but I like it. A discussion of the effects of music on the brain and a nice example of making use of a range of psychological theories to address an issue.

http://braintrainpodcast.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/episode-10-emily-dawson-probes-the-brain-of-alexandra-lamont/

7) Three Bits Of Neuroscience.

Firstly, here’s an article on the limits of neuroscience.

http://braintrainpodcast.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/episode-10-emily-dawson-probes-the-brain-of-alexandra-lamont/

Secondly, here’s a bit of commentary on last week’s news about cultivating brain cells.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2013/09/02/the-case-of-the-tiny-human-brains/#.UijhaBaRrwx

Finally, here’s a New Scientist article about the mechanical brain. Please see Mrs. Key in the Library or ask me if you want the school password.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929320.600-the-knockout-enigma-how-your-mechanical-brain-works.html?full=true#.UijiLxaRrwx

8) TB Has Human Origins

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23897670

This isn’t strictly speaking a piece of Psychology at all but it’s interesting that researchers are now able to use techniques to study genetics which take them right back into pre-history. It becomes relevant to us when we look at evolutionary explanations in Psychology: depression, food preferences and reproduction are all areas we study which have an evolutionary element. What used to be thought of as speculative stories about how and why things developed are now backed up with scientific fact.

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