Post Of The Week – Thursday 26th September

1) Asda and Tesco withdraw ‘psycho’ patient outfits

This story has broken today and has caused an angry response in many people. These products perpetuate the stigma of mental health and the stereotype that people with mental health problems are diseased and dangerous. Many people have had their say in this BBC article. These include Alistair Campbell, a former government adviser, who has been persistent and courageous in speaking out about his own health and the stigma that surrounds mental illness. You can read a recent article by him here.

My favourite response has been the pictures people have tweeted of themselves as “mental patients”.  Here’s one.

I hope you see the point.

2) Elizabeth Loftus – TED Talk

Loftus’ talk is now online here.

Loftus has attracted controversy within the Psychology community because some claim that she has exaggerated the weaknesses of human memory. As she explains, this is as nothing compared to the problems she has faced within the wider community because of some of her claims.

She was also the subject of a Radio 4 profile which you can listen to here.

The American Association For The Advancement Of Science thought she was good enough to receive this award a couple of years ago.

3) James Flynn On IQ

On the surface, this doesn’t have much to do with us as we don’t study intelligence as one of our options. However, his theory about how thinking moved from concrete to abstract in the twentieth century is both interesting in itself and relevant to the work we do on cognitive development. In his theory of cognitive development, Piaget claimed that children below the age of 11 or 12 were only very rarely capable of abstract thought. If Flynn is right, this is a claim very much of its time. When Piaget was formulating his theories in the 1920s and 1930s, his claim may have been true. With advances in education and changes more broadly in society in how people think, Piaget’s claim now looks dangerously out of date.

4) Maximising Your Memory

This is from a little while ago but has lots of good things in it.

5) Epigenetics

Psychology has traditionally been a battleground for arguments about nature versus nurture. Increasingly, psychologists have understood that it is impossible to separate the effects of nature and nurture. It is better to try to understand how they work together. With this in mind, epigenetics has been developed to explain how our genetic make up is affected and even altered by the environments to which we are exposed and to which we expose ourselves. This article explores what we mean by “epigenetics” and what the limitations of epigenetics might be.

Read it and follow some of the links.


Some of you get frustrated because your sample of participants for your studies is often quite narrow: you use family and friends. This article explores how this is a problem for much of the psychological research which is published, including research relating to evolutionary behaviour.

The article makes the point that it is bizarre to make claims about human universals based on research on a very narrow slice of humanity. This might make you feel better about your own work.

7) Are Depression’s Causes Biological?

The New York Times published an article on this recently. If you follow the link here, you can see a link to the original article as well as responses from some influential people in Psychology. It is sometimes tempting to think that biological explanations are winning the day across a wide range of psychological issues. These responses suggest that the contrast we have in our course between biological and psychological explanations of things is still valid and controversial.

As an example of this controversy, please see this article about a genetic variation associated with depression and other disorders.

8) Smart Teenage Brains May Get Some Extra Learning Time

There is now a large amount of research on the teenage brain, with researchers beginning to grasp the importance and complexity of development during these years.

This article suggests that for some people, the ability to learn a lot quickly which younger children have extends into adolescence. There may be a genetic basis for this and it may explain the prodigious intellectual progress some people are able to make during their teenage years.

9) Diet, Obesity And Lifestyle Choices

In A2, we have used the application of theories to the treatment of obesity as a strong evaluation point. This article evaluates what a good intervention might look like.

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