Post Of The Week – Thursday 8th May 2014

1) Alan Baddeley And Working Memory

Here’s an extended lecture by Alan Baddeley talking about working memory. It’s about 40 minutes long. In it, he describes where his ideas about working memory came from, how they developed and what challenges remain in understanding how memory works.

When I put together your notes, I try to work out how to summarise the theory in about 180 words. There is an absurdity in doing this to someone’s life’s work, particularly when it is so complex, rich and rewarding.

While we’re on working memory, here’s a useful summary of what it is and what the issues might be.


2) A Bit More On Brain Scanning

Here’s a radio programme

with an attached news story.

I’ve done a couple of posts recently on the advances and limitations of brain scanning. This material covers some of the same ground.


3) How The Human Brain Is Different

When we look at, for example, research about neural mechanisms and eating, we use studies of rats. We observe in passing that we might be concerned about generalising from a rat’s brain to a human one. This article throws some light on this observation, explaining what is and what isn’t the same.


4) Nature-Nurture Explained

There are a few spelling mistakes in this article which grate a bit but the ideas expressed are elegant and interesting.


5) What Could Be More Interesting Than How The Mind Works?

Here’s Steven Pinker from Harvard talking about his life and career in Psychology.


6) Some CBT And Mindfulness Issues

We’ve seen several times how mindfulness is being used alongside CBT in a range of therapeutic settings with impressive results. This study compares a mindfulness based approach and a CBT related approach based on building coping skills and problem solving with the long established 12 step programme around which Alcoholics Anonymous is based. Both CBT related and mindfulness based programmes show clear advantages, with the effects for mindfulness being longer lasting.

It is this sort of research which prompts claims about mindfulness such as those in this article from The Guardian.

Finally, in AS, our example of the effectiveness of CBT comes from studies looking at CBT as a treatment for bulimia nervosa. One of the issues we consider at a number of points on the course is whether the effectiveness is down to the relationship between client and therapist or because of the processes of the therapy. The relationship between client and therapist is measured through the idea of “therapeutic alliance”.

This article suggests that therapeutic alliance has little effect in predicting who will get better than therapy. Early improvements in the condition are better predictors. Therapeutic alliance may be an essential element of a programme of therapy but what matters are the processes which take place once the therapeutic relationship has been established.


7) Antidepressants And Suicide Risk

The radio programme Prozac Economy, which we use when studying biological therapies for depression, we hear stories of suicide linked to the use of antidepressants. This risk is seen to be particularly acute in young people and is seen as a powerful argument against the use of such medication. Harrowing as these stories are, we need a proper scientific perspective on what this risk might be.

This study provides an answer. The main point seems to be that there is some risk of suicide in young people given high doses of antidepressants but they have to be ill in the first place in order to be given them. There are some useful details to be mined from this article.


8) Positive Memories

We spend much of the memory topic moving away from the idea of memory as a machine of recording things to memory as a means of reconstructing and making sense of our experience. One aspect of this is the bias people have towards remembering good things and forgetting bad ones. This is dealt with in this article.

Two ideas emerge. Firstly, the tendency to remember good things exists across cultures. This suggests that this is an evolutionary adaptation which helps us cope and survive. Secondly, for people with depression this bias does not exist and they find accessing happy memories difficult. To remedy this, an adaptation of the method of loci is used.


9) Two From PsyBlog

This article reports the finding that girls often called “fat” at age 10 are more likely to obese at age 19. This was found even though their weight at age 10 was controlled as part of the study. This suggests that criticism of weight from peers, family members, health professionals or authority figures has a negative effect on self-esteem and anxiety. I happen to have been doing some work on health education with my Year 8 tutor group. They were starting to suggest that underneath the health issues we were supposed to be investigating – self-harm, eating disorders, drug abuse – lay issues of self-esteem and social support. It looks like they are right.

On a different theme, Year 12 will soon be starting to think about university. Here’s a post from Psyblog about what makes university a success.



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