Post Of The Week – Saturday 2nd November

A couple of days late – half term holidays. Sorry.

1) Bedlam

Here’s the link to the Channel 4 series taking a look inside the South London and Maudsley hospital.

I watched the first episode on 4OD catch up and would recommend the programmes. As with the programmes in the BBC season earlier in the year, there is a tension between on the one hand creating human interest where we follow the stories of people going through some traumatic experiences and on the other hand learning something about the process of getting ill and getting treated. I thought this programme dealt with this balance well. For me, the most important aspect was seeing the behaviour element of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in action. We tend when we think about CBT to focus on the cognitive element: how the thinking of a client is challenged through the therapeutic process. In this episode, we saw the behavioural element clearly, with clients being placed in situations where they had to challenge their thinking and deal with the problem. That wasn’t always comfortable viewing.

2) Zimbardo’s Prison Study

The Stanford Prison Experiment is one of the most famous in Psychology. It doesn’t feature in our course currently but you will see references to it in sections of text books about ethics and social influence. I’ve had my doubts about it for a while. This article crystallises some of those doubts.

The particular point which this article makes is about demand characteristics. This is a difficult idea to pin down. This article makes it very clearly.

3) Brain Damage And Memory

When we study the multistore model of memory, we watch a video featuring  John, a retired teacher who suffered catastrophic memory loss following a brain haemorrhage. John talks repeatedly about sailing on the Norfolk Broads and gets some details about his family wrong. The interpretation of this failure offered by the experts in the programme, which was made almost 20 years ago, is that this is a problem of recollection. John is trying to get at traces of memory which aren’t really there and has to make things up in order to fill in the gaps. More recent research cited in this article suggests a different interpretation.

Rather than trying and failing to access information, John and people like him may instead be failing to engage with the process of memory at all. This may reflect an “inability to select the appropriate mental process for the task at hand.” This is an interesting proposition based on a case study. As with all case studies, we need to be aware of the problem of generalising to other similar cases.

4) Advertising And Smoking

As part of our addictive behaviour topic, we look at restrictions and bans on advertising as an example of a public health intervention to deal with addiction. This article, focusing on e-cigarettes, explains why adverts about the negative effects of smoking or adverts promoting products to help people quit may have the opposite effect of what was intended. Seeing a cigarette in an advert, whatever the context, triggers mechanisms in the reward pathways which might lead someone to pick up a cigarette again. This article also gives us an idea about how people deal with addiction. The trick seems to be to avoid the cues in the first place. If you don’t have junk food in your house, you won’t be tempted to eat it. If you can keep yourself away from cigarettes and cigarette adverts, you won’t be tempted to smoke.

5) Sarah-Jayne Blakemore And The Adolescent Brain

When we study biological explanations of social cognition in the cognition and development topic for A2, we use Blakemore’s TED talk on the adolescent brain as a starting point for evaluation. In this interview, she gives some context to the research she is doing and where she thinks it might lead.

6) Lou Reed And Psychiatry

Here’s a short post about Lou Reed, who died last week, and his relationship with psychiatry. The comments at the bottom show why these are still controversial issues.

7) Freemium Games And Addiction

The proliferation of gambling websites, as well as the increase of advertising and sponsorship from bookmakers on television, might give us cause for concern as to the number of people who can become addicted to gambling. In this article, Mark Griffiths looks at the psychology of websites which aren’t obviously about gambling but where people can get sucked into paying for extras in order to play the game. These games are based on the principle of variable reinforcement, they use the “foot in the door’ technique to draw people in and they teach people the mechanics of gambling. All of this suggests that these types of games represent a substantial risk.

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