Post Of The Week – Sunday 10th May, 2015

1) Varenicline In Reduction As Well As Cessation Of Smoking

Most trials of smoking cessation start with people who commit to stop smoking on a particular date and follow them to see for how long they can stop. This does not however reflect the way many people give up smoking: gradually reduce their level of smoking before they finally quit.

This study is different because it looks at just this process. Varenicline performs well, although not significantly better than NRT. There remain issues about the safety of varenicline, although these issues are played down both here and in the Cochrane Review of the effectiveness of varenicline to which this article refers.

2) On Being Mindful

Mindfulness, an in particular mindfulness-based CBT, continue to interest people in the Psychology community. Here is a radio programme from Australia which explores some of the issues.

3) Growing Obesity Crisis

This article refers to an academic conference which took place this week.

The projections here are interesting: obesity appears to be on an inexorable rise and there is widely held hostility against tax measures which might help cut it. Voluntary agreements between the government and the food industry do not seem to be working. What emerges though is that the quality of data on interventions is mixed, which makes achieving consensus on what to do more difficult. Here, what we do depends on what we know.

4) Two From Psyblog

This first article is about one of the clinical characteristics of depression. People who experience depression often report fuzzy thinking, finding it difficult to remember what has happened and plan what to do next. The study linked to this article finds evidence of such thinking from brain scans. This might not tell us about what causes depression but it moves us from describing clinical characteristics using objective, empirical methods.

This article looks at why people fail in diets. It suggests that too much attention is paid to the beliefs and intentions of people on diets and not enough to the feelings they have about what they are about to eat. The secret is to listen to your feelings about the food you eat and then adjust your plans. That sounds like mindful eating.

5) Assessing Autistic Traits In People Without Autism

Since 2001, the Autism Questionnaire has been used to place people with autism on the autistic spectrum. The trouble is that people who would not be diagnosed with autism might still score quite high on it. This article seeks to explore the implications of this.

It emerges that where studies talk about comparing “autistic” with “normal” participants, the boundaries are blurred. Time for a rethink.

6) Replicability

Science, as we keep saying, is based on the principle of replicability. It should be possible to conduct studies again and keep getting the same results. This article refers to an attempt to replicate 100 studies in Psychology to see if they had reliable findings.

In only 39 cases could key findings be reproduced. This may or may not be worse than in some other areas of Psychology but it does show ways in which psychologists are now starting to work together to find solutions to this problem of replication.

7) Why People Conform

This brief article takes on the idea that conformity on Asch tasks is due purely to the social situation. Instead, it suggests that our behaviour is determined by a mental average of the things we have done before. The problem is that we get confused, mixing up what we have done with what other people have done.


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