Post Of The Week – Thursday 6th February 2014

1) Finishing Off Depression

We are about to finish off the Depression topic in Year 13. It’s been a fascinating four or five weeks looking at competing and contradictory claims. Fundamentally, the researchers cannot agree about the effectiveness of biological therapies nor about the classification and diagnosis of depression. All of the debate really comes down to that. Some of that controversy has been covered in the weekly posts: check out the prozac tag opposite and the depression classification. On the therapies issue, I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Irving Kirsch from a couple of years ago. It’s here.

What’s interesting is not so much what is said but how it is said. Kirsch is given quite a bit of air time but the programme tries to balance his views with opposing views and with some sort of conclusion at the end.

On the classification and diagnosis debate, here’s a link to the BPS website.

Follow the link on this page to see the website for the group campaigning against DSM5. There are some names there whose research we have come across before. Use the links to find out more about what they are saying.

For both of these debates, I cannot claim to know what the answer is but I hope I understand why they are so important. I also hope that I am presenting the debates in a balanced and objective way.

2) Time To Change

Laura in 12C asked a really good question today. We were looking at stress in the workplace. Why, asked Laura, if researchers now knew so much about what causes stress did someone not do something about reducing it? My answer was to refer to the Thomas Insel blog linked in a previous post here. Now we understand more about psychological disorders and appreciate how much they cost across the world, we might over the next 20 years finally get round to doing something about them. What I should have mentioned was that today is Time To Talk day. Time To Change, the campaign to remove the stigma that surrounds mental health designated today as a day to have a conversation about mental health. You might have seen their latest advert on TV. If you haven’t, it’s at the bottom of this page here.

Their big idea is that we might have to wait for politicians and scientists to change the way mental illness is treated and resourced but in the meantime we can all do something to create change for the better. That should have been my answer to Laura.

3)  Online Gaming And Gambling

We’ll be looking at gambling as part of the Addictive Behaviour topic after half term. Here is Mark Griffiths talking in a balanced and objective way about his research on video gaming, gambling and the relationship between the two.

4) Intense World Theory Again

I’ve posted elsewhere about the intense world theory of autism, focusing on the theory of Henry Markram. It’s a controversial theory which is still emerging but this piece of evidence linked from Jeremy Dean’s website suggests it may have some validity. Autistic children’s brains produce more information.

5) Sexual Selection And Swanky Cars

Sexual selection theory suggests that women have evolved to be choosy when it comes to selecting a mate. Because women have to invest in their offspring through first carrying them through the period of gestation and then looking after them after they are born, they have evolved to look for good genes in men. The things which women find attractive are the things which either signify that the male has the genes to provide healthy offspring or has the resources and commitment to look after the offspring after it is born. There are lots of ways to critique this theory but it does have some evidence to support it. Here is one such piece of evidence which suggests that males are seen as more attractive if they are sitting in an expensive car.

Valid, but perhaps a bit annoying.

6) Mind Mindedness

In the Cognition And Development topic, we look at the idea of a theory of mind and use it as a basis for understanding autism. The idea is that a theory of mind allows us to understand the link between the beliefs and the behaviour of other people. We look at what a deficit in theory of mind might mean but don’t really consider what it might be like to have a really strong theory of mind. This article looks at the idea of mind-mindedness, the tendency to focus on what someone else is thinking while interacting with that person.

The conclusions and the route taken to get to them are both interesting and reassuring.

7) Stress And Prosocial Behaviour

We are coming near the end of the Stress topic in AS. It’s been great this year to use the work of Kelly McGonigal and Peter Kinderman to challenge assumptions about the nature of stress. Here’s an article from McGonigal’s twitter feed about the prosocial effects of stress.

The idea of fight or flight portrays the stress response as essentially a selfish act. This article suggests that there is more to it than that.

8) A Bit More On Thomas Insel

A New York Times profile.

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