Post Of The Week – Thursday 13th February 2014

1) Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work

Sandra Aamodt, a neuroscientist, explains in this video why diets do not work. Along the way, she explains some of the ideas in our A2 Eating Behaviour course: neural mechanisms, dieting, evolutionary explanations, factors affecting eating behaviour. Her big idea is that eating can become mindful. That, as we’ve seen elsewhere, is an interesting combination of eastern and western ideas about health.

While we’re on eating behaviour and dieting, here’s an article by Gary Taubes, whose work we cover as part of the course, from the New York Times.

2) Some Research Methods

There are two ideas which are particularly difficult to get across on research methods. The first is the idea of statistical significance. If there is a 5% chance or less of making a Type 1 error, we say that results are significant. We express that as p=0.05. I have a neat way of explaining this using men in a French bar ordering beer. The second idea which is difficult is the idea of a pilot study. A pilot study is designed to test the instruments and procedure of a study. Researchers might adjust the measures they take or the instructions they give on the basis of a pilot study.

It turns out that in the real world of Psychology research as opposed to the idealised world of the text book, these ideas are controversial. This article here explains some of the controversies about the use of p=0.05.

I first heard some of these concerns expressed when I was doing my Psychology degree 20 years ago. Finally, they seem to be getting some influence.

On pilot studies, this article explains some of the problems associated with pilot studies. They are commonly used in studies to assess therapies as a preliminary indicator of how strong the effect of a particular therapy might be.

You don’t need to read the whole article, just the paragraph which starts, “A pilot study is not a hypothesis testing study.” Remember that for the exam.

3) Your Guts And Your Brains

This article, from the excellent Black Dog Institute, reports research which suggests that there is a link between the bacteria in our guts and our mental health and well being.

This page is well worth a look for itself but also for links to other pieces of research explained really clearly. Scroll down and have a look.

4) Nikolas Rose – The Limits Of Neuroscience

Nikolas Rose is a sociologist who works alongside neuroscientists on some of the big research projects to discover more about the brain. Here he talks about his role as a critical and dissenting voice in these research processes.

We tend to think that the debate between biological and psychological approaches is either dead or simply the stuff of text books. This article shows that it it neither of those things.

5) Erasing Memories

As part of our Memory topic, we look at the work of Karim Nader. He focuses on the reconstructive nature of memory and in particular at the ways in which this process can be manipulated to help people deal with traumatic experiences.

Here’s Jeremy Dean writing about some new research in this area.

6) Online Dating

We look at dating websites as an application of the filter model which we use as one of our theories of the formation of relationships. Traditionally, our daily routine has provided the filters through which potential partners pass so that the field of availables is narrowed down to the field of desirables. We tend to meet people from the same social background as ourselves living in the same location. We filter out people whose attitudes and values are similar to our own and we form longer relationships on the basis of complementary needs. Computers, it is claimed, can do some of this for us.

This article explains the history of dating websites and the controversies which surround them. The last paragraph draws an interesting conclusion which ties in with the work of Eli Finkel on the  limits of these websites.

7) Addiction – Two Things From The Mental Elf

For Addictive Behaviour, we need to cover biological and public health interventions. Biological interventions include drug treatments for addiction. These have been controversial because drugs used to treat addiction to Class A substances have been used for smoking and gambling addiction, bringing with them significant side effects.

Here’s the Mental Elf on Burpropion and Varenicline as treatments for addiction to smoking.

For a public health intervention, we look at attempts to control addiction by raising costs and taxes.

Here’s the Mental Elf on minimum alcohol pricing.

8) Resilience In The Workplace

We have been thinking about resilience in general terms as a mental health issue. It also has its place in occupational psychology.

This article explains how building resilience will be a focus for employers and businesses.

9) ……. And In The Lecture Hall

Student mental health is becoming a bigger issue in higher education. It’s always been there as an issue but back when I was a student, nobody wanted to talk about it. The good news is that this broad based coalition of organisations do want to talk about it now and get people talking and thinking.

I’ve a friend who works as a volunteer counsellor at Plymouth University. The number of students seeking help at least once in their degree programme, about one in four, is troubling but not totally surprising.

10) Schools In The Cloud

I liked this article because I run a blog and try to use it in class.

It’s also got some relevance to the work we do on applications of theories of cognitive development to education. It got me thinking about Piaget’s picture of the learner as a lone scientist exploring the world but also of Vygotsky describing learning and development as a fundamentally social process. I suspect there is a bit of both in what is being suggested here.

11) Gender And Depression

This is an issue which occasionally drew our attention when we were looking at Depression. It has faded from the text books a bit as people have focused on other concerns.

The abstract of this article suggests that depression may be equally common amongst males and females. Predictably, it comes down to a question of how you classify and diagnose it.

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