Post Of The Week – Saturday 27th September, 2014

1) Strategies For Memory Improvement

I’ve been spending some of the week thinking about how we learn languages. I’ve set my Year 7s a homework where they have to learn some Latin words but also explain in a post on their Google Classroom page how they went about learning them. I’m hoping to have a dialogue with them about the best ways to learn and strategies for memory improvement, which is also an AS sub-topic. By coincidence, this TED talk came up on my twitter feed.

This has got me thinking about the relationship between learning and memory. I’ve divided my google site pages into a core you have to remember and mastery learning sections where you develop and deepen your understanding. The assumption is that these are two separate processes. Joshua Foer’s talk reminds us that they aren’t.


2) Eye Witness Testimony

In 12D this week, one group came up with the idea of doing a field experiment in a police station. We related this to work from the Innocence Project about systems factors, aspects of the way in which the police conduct witness interviews which lead to cases of witness misidentification.

This research is therefore interesting. It explains how people who have given a verbal description of a crime are less accurate in selecting the person who committed that crime from a line up than people who have done a control task. This article explains how this conclusion was reached by replicating an original study from the 1990s in a number of different location. This therefore has ramifications for our understanding of the process of validating new knowledge, replication and peer review.


3) Naked Neuroscience

Some great stuff from this podcast this month.

I’ve listened to the items on teenage depression and on dieting. The teenage depression one is interesting. Depression is common in adolescents and, because so many high stakes things happen in people’s lives, serious. Two major points arise. Firstly, ten years ago, research suggested that there was a link between antidepressant use and suicide. We cover this research when we look at biological therapies for depression. As a result, prescriptions for adolescents went down but suicide rates went up. Lesley Cousins, the speaker in this interview, makes a case for the us of antidepressants as a way of helping adolescents access talking therapies. Secondly, there is a gender bias in the way in which antidepressants are prescribed. Boys are more likely to have them prescribed than girls. This is partly due to the fact that being upset and crying is seen as typical for a girl but less common for a boy. This has echoes in the way in which we define psychological abnormality in terms of social norms. Boys who cry in a consulting room are seen to be deviating from a social norm and therefore get help. A consequence of this is that girls do not get help  and the impact of antidepressant treatments on girls with moderate depression is not well researched.


4) Individual Differences In Autism

When we study autism as part of the biological explanations of social cognition topic, we look at the idea that autism may be an umbrella term for a number of different conditions. This idea is pursued in this piece of research. It compares the brains of adults with autism, some of who had experienced a delay in the development of language and some of whom have not. It identifies differences in brain volume in a number of key regions. It comes to a paradoxical question as to whether autism a single spectrum or a set of discrete subgroups.

If autism interests you, there is a mass of good writing about it here.


5) The 5 Biggest Reasons Why People Get Anxious Or Depressed

This link refers to the work by Peter Kinderman which we look at when investigating stress. It focuses on rumination as a strong contributing factor.


6) The Cost-Effectiveness Of CBT

When looking at psychological therapies for depression, we include the research by Wiles et al (2013) that CBT is an effective treatment for people with depression for whom medication has not worked. This article refers to a piece of research which ran alongside the research by Wiles et al and specifically focused on cost effectiveness.

Health economics is a very complex area. There was enough here to convince me.


7) Mental Capacity And Mental Health

This article refers to two piece of legislation, the Mental Capacity Act of 2005 and the Mental Health Act of 2007. The Mental Capacity Act provides for people suffering from chronic illness the right to make plans for their treatment in advance of their deterioration. This applies to a range of physical health problems but not to mental health. This results in the use of the Mental Health Act of 2007 to force people to have treatment for severe depression which they might have planned to refuse in earlier phases of their condition. This doesn’t seem right.


8) Susan Greenfield, Internet Use And Autism

Susan Greenfield has made some exaggerated claims about the effects of digital technology on health and well-being. If you worry about this, you might find this article rather reassuring.

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