Post Of The Week – Saturday 6th September, 2014

A day or two late. It has been a busy week …..

1) Ashya King

I’ve been following the story this week, mostly because the hospital from which he was taken by his parents, Southampton General, is the hospital in which I was born. It has, however, been interesting from  a Psychology point of view for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is almost a given that an important part of Ashya’s treatment is that his parents are near him to support him and monitor his psychological welfare. It hasn’t always been like this. It was the research carried out by the Robertsons of children in hospital that made people aware that visiting hours and access needed to be extended for children in order to protect their psychological well-being. Secondly, the relationship between Ashya’s parents and his doctors seems to have broken down over a dispute concerning what would be the most effective treatment for him. What works, why it works and how you measure its effectiveness are questions at the heart of much of what we do in Psychology. This article from the New Scientist explores what the issues were.

The difficulty with proton beam treatment is that randomised control trials are difficult because people do not want to be put into a random group when they have something this serious wrong with them. This echoes disputes concerning the effectiveness of psychological therapy where establishing a control group who get “placebo therapy” seems like a logical impossibility.


2) Publication Bias

I finished off work on A2 Research Methods for the google site this week and referred more than one to the file drawer phenomenon where only positive and significant results get published.

This article explains the problem in the social sciences as well as suggesting some solutions. It refers to the Psychfiledrawer website. In similar vein, here is Dorothy Bishop talking sense about replication.


3) Risk And The Adolescent Brain

When we study biological explanations of social cognition, we look at evidence from the adolescent brain to help us understand why the pre-frontal cortex and limbic system are important. Basically, in adolescence, the pre-frontal cortex is undergoing changes in both size and activity. Adolescents seem to find tasks where they have to see a problem from another perspective difficult even though they appear to be able to deal with comparable logical tasks. This therefore shows how important the pre-frontal cortex is in social cognition. This also has implications for addictive behaviour. Age seems to be a risk factor in the development of addiction because young people find it difficult to resist temptation.

This article looks at the way adolescents respond to social cues related to risk. The science and procedure here is complicated. The main idea seems to be that regardless of whether something is flagged as a threat or a reward by the reaction of others, adolescents will pay more attention to it. If you are paying attention, you are more likely to join in and get involved.


4) CBT On The Internet

One of the best bits of preparing work for the new academic year was looking at how psychological therapies for depression are developing, particularly the use of on-line therapy.

Here’s an article which tells you how good they are.

If CBT works, we need an explanation of why it works at the level of brain function. Here is a clue.


5) Stigma Across The World

Here are two from Graham Thornicroft, whose research we look at when studying stigma. Firstly, as I have blogged before, mental health will become the next big global health burden. Treating mental illness will become a global task, as this article suggests.

That in turn means that the stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be reduced. Australia is leading the way on this. I’ve mentioned State Of Mind before which uses rugby league as a vehicle for talking about mental health. Here is their website.


6) E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes do a similar job to NRT in helping people deal with addiction. They are controversial though. In this programme, Claudia Hammond explains why.


7) The Human Brain Project

The controversy about this project rumbles on. Here is yet another article about it.


8) Dieting

In our course, we look at explanations for the success or failure of diets. This article from the BBC suggests that what matters is not in the diet but whether you stick to it.

This has implications for how we understand success or failure of dieting.


9) What Don’t You Understand About Yourself?

In 2009, the BPS Research Digest asked this question of several leading psychologists. Here is what they said.


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