Post Of The Week – Thursday 22nd May

1) Mental Health In Adolescence

I spent some tutor time recently with my Year 8 group working on adolescent health issues. We were supposed to be looking at drug use, eating disorders and self-harm. You can see the results of their work on my classroom wall. What emerged very quickly was an understanding that the problems we were looking at were really the products of poor mental health. This might be about self esteem or about the stresses of modern living. Two of them made videos about this. It is not surprising therefore that articles have appeared this week which talk about the severity and prevalence of mental health problems in adolescence. Two of them appeared in The Guardian on successive days.


It gets worse. This article explains the negative attitude of many girls to exercise.

This one explains the long term consequences of bullying and contains an infographic similar to the ones my Year 8 group were making.

We need to remember that mental health problems in adulthood can be seen as chronic problems of adolescence. I know that there are people in school who are thinking seriously about this.


2) Naked Scientists – Autism

Here’s a link to a podcast from Cambridge which focuses on autism.

It features some extended input from Simon Baron-Cohen. He has some powerful things to say about what autism is and isn’t. There is also a section at the end from a practising educational psychologist on what is done to help children with autism.


3) Smoking And Level Of Education

In our Addictive Behaviour topic, we look at the reasons why people smoke. We consider smoking as socially learnt behaviour from parents and peers and we use the theory of planned behaviour within the cognitive approach to understand how people think about smoking.

This article looks at why people with more education smoke less. Traditionally, it has been thought that this is because they have better analytical skills and higher aspirations. This study suggests that there is a bit more to it than that. Specifically, it considers factors such as school policies, attitudes of peers and expectations about the future. This has echoes in the three aspects of the TPB: social norm, attitude, perceived behavioural control. It also has implications for the prevention of smoking, suggesting that this needs to start early.


4) A Couple From Mark Griffiths

Here are two articles from Mark Griffiths on two different aspects of addiction.

Here, Mark Griffiths goes back to the biological explanations of addiction with which we start the topic and looks at the idea of an addictive personality, something which featured on this blog a few months ago.

In this article, Mark Griffiths considers different aspects of the psychology of winning. Oddly, winning a large amount of money brings many of the negative consequences associated with loss or bereavement. He then looks at the psychological implications of this and at what research now tells us.


5) The Real Vygotsky

When we study Vygotsky’s theory or its applications, we evaluate it by starting with the claim that he did little research of his own. We then explain how later studies fill in the gaps he left: MacNaughton and Leyland, Wood and Middleton and Tzuriel and Shamir. The problem with this is that the picture of Vygotsky we get may be different from what he actually intended. This article explains some of the implications of that.

Whether the picture of Vygotsky we have from text book research is accurate might seem like a historical point of little consequence. The reason why it is important emerges from the resources from the Open University which we used this year in studying Vygotsky. There it is claimed that Vygotsky was keen on direct instructional methods. The idea that he was keen on groups getting together to work things out for themselves is therefore based on a partial reading of Vygotsky’s writing and evidence which he didn’t collect and might have challenged if he had known about it. So what we’re really arguing about here is whether teachers should teach or people should find things out for themselves. That is clearly a hot topic in education at the moment.


6) Study Skills And Memory

Firstly, some research has been published which suggests that it is better to write notes by hand than on a laptop. The reason seems to be that when we handwrite notes, we write less but process more. Here’s a reference to the original research from Jeremy Dean’s blog.

Here is some discussion on the World Service on why this might be so.

While we’re on memory and learning, here is an account of people engaging in extraordinary memory competitions and the strategies they use.

When we develop memory strategies in class, we look at evidence about the importance of practice testing. Here’s a link to a recent piece of research which explains why testing may be so important.


7) Treatments And Therapies

One of the big problems in Psychology is that the way we define and diagnose treatments, the way we explain them and the way we treat them tend to be three separate processes. The Research Domain Criteria project, which is an idea which Thomas Insel has backed, aims to get round this by basing diagnosis on explanation and basing treatment on both of them. It sounds obvious but we use what we understand about what is going on in the brain to define abnormalities and then come up with treatments based on what we know about what is going on.

This is a lengthy article but the abstract explains how this might work.

Secondly, here is a piece about brain stimulation. As people have come to believe that antidepressants are not the answer and as development of them has slowed as drug companies become less interested, so alternative methods become more popular. Here is an article about the efficacy of such methods.

Finally, we do not include e-cigarettes as part of our account of biological interventions for addiction. This is because they are unregulated and not seen as a medical intervention because they supply people with a substance which harms them. This article however suggests that this may change,


8) Replication

We have just finished looking at Research Methods in Year 13. The message is clear: the essence of a scientific, psychological study is that you can replicate it. However, replication is a complex process. There is research which is proudly quoted in the text books you use which does not replicate well. Replication is never straightforward because it is not possible to control every variable to make a perfect copy of a previous study. Sometimes replication is hostile. Here, Daniel Kahneman explains what the problem is and what might be done about it.


9) Raising Moral Children

We’ve been revising cognition and development today. Two points came out: I try to separate biological explanations of social cognition, understanding of others, sense of self and development of moral understanding from each other. As we saw in the lesson, that is not possible as they all depend on each other. The other point which came out is the belief of Kohlberg in his area and Blakemore in hers that experience is a building block of development. You cannot tell people to empathise or be moral: you have to put them into situations where they learn it, often at risk to themselves.

This article takes these ideas and develops them a bit. I like the idea of seeing connections between apparently disparate things.


One comment

  1. […] same results. Psychology has a problem because famous studies sometimes do not replicate well. I posted a couple of weeks ago a proposal from Daniel Kahneman to deal with this problem. This area, […]

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