Post Of The Week – Saturday 4th October 2014

1) Fed Up

In connection with the obesity topic in the final section of Eating Behaviour, I came across some information about this film.

It features some of the writers and researchers whose work I have used as part of our course over the past five years. It seems to have been fairly well received, judging by this review in the New York Times.

It is interesting to think about how this area has moved on over the past five years that Eating Behaviour has been an A2 topic. When I started teaching it, New York City Health Department was launching its Pouring On The Pounds campaign. The audio file I still use had been broadcast a couple of months before I started teaching the course. Writers such as Gary Taubes were just starting to get attention in mainstream media. Now it’s become a feature film. I can’t see a UK release date yet.


2) Is Your Brain Male Or Female?

This BBC programme explores some of the research in this area. For me, the main interest lies in the way in which it presents how a series of hypotheses have been tested: how science works. It’s also an exploration of the influence of nature and nurture. This gets interesting because it takes as read the idea that our development is a combination of nature and nurture but tries to establish points at which each has a particular influence. We keep repeating in A2 that application of findings to real world problems is an important aspect of evaluating any theory or research. This programme amply demonstrates this.

Here’s a news story to go with it.


3) You Only Use 10% Of Your Brain

This is a popularly held belief and is totally false. This article explains why.

This video explains more.

The key point is that our brains devour a high proportion of the energy we consume. We wouldn’t have evolved something as expensive as a brain if we weren’t using every last bit of it. This links back neatly to the work on small guts and big brains which we do in the evolutionary explanations of food preference sub-topic.


4) Facebook

We have had some debate in the AS groups about the Facebook study linked here. We thought about how the study threw up questions about which ethical issue should have priority. It is tempting to think that because people have given consent, anything goes. Facebook have found out that even though they acted within their own terms and conditions, anything doesn’t go. They have admitted as much here.


5) Minimum Unit Pricing

One of the hardest parts of the course to teach is public health interventions for addictive behaviour. It is simply hard to find and evaluate evidence about interventions which work. This article from Mental Elf is therefore very useful. It describes findings from a model developed by Sheffield University of what the benefits would be if there was minimum unit pricing for alcoholic drinks.

The article explores how the UK government has resisted minimum unit pricing and how the Scottish Government is facing a challenge from the drinks industry as it attempts to implement it. What’s particularly striking is the evidence from Canada in this article.

MUP was introduced as a measure to protect the drinks industry but has had clear public health benefits. Along with the plain packaging legislation in Australia, it is going to be interesting to see how these ideas play out. Remember that bans on sugared drinks were once seen as novel and slightly eccentric: see above 1)


6) Vietnam’s Neuroscientific Legacy

The First World War is often seen as a watershed in the development of Psychology as an academic discipline. For the first time, people began to understand the effects of trauma on the mind.

This article suggests that we need to see the Vietnam War in a similar way in relation to the science of the brain. For the first time, there was a serious attempt to record on a large scale the effects of brain injury on mental functioning. Studies into Vietnam veterans are ongoing.

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