Post Of The Week – Saturday 22nd November, 2014

1) All In The Mind

All In The Mind has started a new series. This week’s episode contained a feature on addiction and also a feature on Milgram. You can listen to it here.

We will use the section on addiction to start that topic: there is a link already on the Google page. We’ll also use the item on Milgram. This explores the idea that people do not simply obey because they surrender to the will of a more powerful authority figure, entering the so-called agentic state but rather buy into the ideology which the authority figure represents. The act of obedience at the heart of Milgram’s study is therefore more conscious and deliberate than is often represented. I find what Stephen Reicher says about this in the item a little confusing because the idea of an ideology to which the naive participant attaches himself is built into Milgram’s study. It is in the prompts which the authority figure gives and also in the variation where the experimenter is moved from the university to a downtown office. What Reicher seems to be arguing against here is not the actual study but the representation of it. While we’re on All In The Mind, the previous week contains a really good discussion of stigma and attitudes which is also well worth listening to. That’s at


2) Psychological Literacy In Schools

I find myself increasingly having conversations with people in school and out about the topics which we cover on our course. This suggests that there is both an increasing need and an increasing interest in enabling larger numbers of people to develop an understanding of issues of mental health. This might be seen to be particularly relevant to young people experiencing the changes and growth which adolescence brings.

This article explains a study which evaluated attempts to increase psychological literacy and give people some CBT techniques to help themselves. The findings are positive.

This news story suggests that the government is now thinking along these lines.

Finally in this area, we use online access to CBT as evidence of the strength of the CBT model. The evidence for its effectiveness seems to be strong. This article suggests that more needs to be done.

There are really two problems. First of all, online CBT needs to be different from face to face therapy. What works online may not work face to face and vice versa. We need to understand what the active ingredients of online therapy might be which make it a success. Secondly, the area is so new and dynamic that research into effectiveness is finding it hard to keep up.


3) Pavlov

We happen in AS to have been doing the learning theory of attachment this week and watched the Pavlov video explaining conditioning. This article explains a bit more about the great man.

He’s often thought of as the father of behaviourism. He was certainly greatly admired by Skinner, who really was the father of behaviourism. This article explains something about Pavlov’s life but also makes a case for him being seen as a pioneer in understanding the relationship between thought and brain activity. Modern neuroscience owes him something.


4) The Neuroscience Of Morality

When we study Kohlberg and Selman, we look at how theories about the development of moral understanding and the understanding of others arise from scenarios. This involves presenting people with scenarios where people suffer negative events and asking people what the right response would be. This is also true of Gilligan’s theories about care. This article explains how moral thinking is now tested in the neuroscience laboratory and what the problems and limitations of this research might be.


5) Music’s Amazing Effect On Long Term Memory

As someone who does music in some of his spare time – I’ve been in choirs most of my life – I don’t need much convincing about the cognitive benefits of music. Music requires you to process complex information quickly and to be aware of what your body is doing. It’s hard. It seems a likely candidate for an activity which develops skills which can be used in other activities.

This article seems to confirm this. What’s not clear is whether people with highly developed processing systems become musicians or whether musicians become people with highly developed processing systems.


6) Peering Into The Brain

Here’s Naked Neuroscience explaining some of the latest developments, including pieces on the BRAIN Initiative in the US and the Human Brain Project in the EU.


7) Depression As An Adaptive Response

We tend to see depression as a disease, as something which has gone wrong. However, evolutionary psychology tries to explain why depression has persisted as a trait in human beings. This article explains why depression might be adaptive in some circumstances.

This leads us neatly into …..


8) Peter Kinderman – Prescriptions For Psychiatry

Here is Peter Kinderman on vintage form criticising the disease model of mental illness and proposing a realignment of mental health services. Great stuff.

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