Post Of The Week – Thursday 17th October

1) Doug Kenrick Being Entertaining

We come across Doug Kenrick’s work when we look at theories about sexual behaviour and parental investment in the Relationships topic in A2. Here he is in a TEDx lecture talking about this and other research, all of which relates to his concerns in Evolutionary Psychology. Wide ranging and entertaining.

2) Cooperation, Breeding And Parental Investment

Our traditional view of the evolution of reproductive behaviour is based on conflict. In Darwin’s terms, the promiscuous male wants to inseminate as many potential mates as possible in order to maximise his reproductive success while the coy female seeks stability in order to be able first to carry and then to nurture her young. In our course, we look at the work of Joan Roughgarden who seeks to challenge this view and to build a picture of the evolution of human and non-human behaviour based not on conflict but on cooperation.

The research linked here explains how many species of birds nest in cooperative groups. In other words, the young are raised by adults to which they are not biologically related. This suggests that cooperation rather than conflict is nature’s default setting.

3) Milgram And Obedience – A Different Perspective

Milgram’s study is now 50 years old. It is still widely studied and everyone thinks they know what it shows. This article challenges that cosy assumption.

4) Gambling And Distorted Thinking

Links to articles by Mark Griffiths have appeared on this blog before. These two recent articles are interesting because they focus particularly on the distorted thinking which is a feature of gambling.

In this article, Mark Griffiths focuses particularly on the illusion of control, the belief which gamblers have that the games which they play are games of skill rather than games of chance.

Here, Mark Griffiths lays out some of the myths surrounding gambling which might lead some people to take it up.

As a postscript, you might like to read this article about tattoo addiction based on a Channel 4 documentary.

This is interesting because it gets us thinking about how we define addiction.

5) Prozac – End Of An Era?

For much of the last 25 years or so, the treatment of choice has been to use drugs which act on the working of serotonin in the brain. These drugs do something to help. The problem is that it is not clear how the “something” they do is related to depression nor does the “something” help the substantial number of people living with depression but for whom the drugs do not work. This article explains how research is going off in a different direction, looking at how deep brain stimulation might become a treatment for depression.

In similar vein, this article explains how a drug similar to ketamine, once a drug used to treat horses, is being adapted to treat depression. This drug works in a very different way on the brain from the anti-depressants widely prescribed over the past fifty years or more.

6) Dopamine And Gambling

Back to gambling …… When we look at biological explanations of gambling, we focus on the dopamine system. Research has suggested for a while that dopamine is a pleasure chemical related to the reward pathways in our brains and that if we have too much of it when for example we gamble, we get so much pleasure that we cannot stop ourselves and gamble again and again. For evaluation, we look at why this view of dopamine might be simplistic. This latest piece of research adds fuel to that particular argument.

7) Intelligence, Nature And Nurture

Intelligence is not one of our options but this article is relevant to the other topics we cover which touch on nature and nurture. Psychology has traditionally asked the question of nature or nurture in an attempt to distinguish between what we are born with and what the environment gives us. Increasingly, we now realise that this is the wrong question. Instead, we should be understanding how nature and nurture work together to make us who we are. This article makes the point elegantly in relation to intelligence.

For many years, I had the dubious privilege of teaching people about the racist theories of Arthur Jensen about IQ. I’m pleased to see these effectively nailed in this article.

8) Depression And Resilience

When we study biological explanations of depression, we look at its genetic basis. Traditionally, we understand this through twin and family studies, looking at how depression runs in families. Contemporary research is exciting because it takes us inside the genome to understand how genes influence particular aspects of depression. We also look at how even though describing a depressed brain is currently beyond the reach of science at the moment, researchers are beginning to understand what a brain resilient to depression looks like. In particular, they are looking at how people who are resilient to depression are able to notice the good things which happen to them and to discount the bad.

This research is interesting because it combines both genetic research and the research into resilience, suggesting that there may be a gene which predisposes us to focus on the negative.

9) Stress And Rumination

When we study stress management, we look at the evidence from a study carried out by the BBC and Peter Kinderman from Liverpool University which suggests that rumination, the tendency to go over things again and again in your mind, is a key factor in the development of a harmful stress response. This is important because it leaves room for psychological therapy to intervene and teach people not to ruminate.

You can listen to the All In The Mind programme which deals with this research here.

An update has now been published here.

One comment

  1. […] Kinderman at Liverpool University. I have blogged about this research back in October. Follow this link and go down to item 9 on the post for that week. You can also listen to the radio feature about […]

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