Post Of The Week – Sunday 2nd August 2015

1) Early Experience

This week, I have been preparing for the Attachment topic in the new AS. In stages of development, there is a controversy about how much babies can do in the early weeks of life. This research into the laughter of babies is part of the process of suggesting that they can do more than we might have first thought.

More generally, I have been thinking about the effect of early experience of long term development, focusing on the question of the extent to which the effects of early negative experiences can be reversed. Here’s a piece of research that suggests both that the effects are serious and that they can be reversed.

2) The Sex Life Of Insects

When we study parental investment theory in A2 Relationships, we consider the evidence for the idea that sex differences are fixed and irreversible. Males are promiscuous, females are monogamous. This idea has been challenged by evolutionary biologists including Joan Roughgarden who use evidence from non-human animals to show that these sex differences are contingent on factors in the environment. Here is a contribution to this debate from Marlene Zuk.

3) Cooking Food

Again thinking about evolutionary explanations, this article looks at chimps’ preference for cooked food.

This is important for us because we look at big brain theory as part of the evolutionary explanations of eating behaviour sub-topic. The assumption behind this theory is that the discovery of cooking led to a rapidly evolving preference for cooked food. This new evidence suggests that the preference for cooked food might have come first.

4) CBT For Psychosis

We don’t do schizophrenia as part of our course but this is still worth a look. It is almost twenty years since startling claims were made for the success of treating schizophrenia using CBT. The idea that you could treat schizophrenia by talking to someone rather than just giving them drugs to suppress their symptoms was seen as revolutionary. Since then, the evidence has been questioned. This article explains the problems of measuring the effectiveness of CBT.

What is said here about CBT in relation to schizophrenia could apply to CBT in any context.

5) Zimbardo: Explaining And Excusing

I still have a problem about Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment being part of our course again. This is partly down to the validity of the study, partly down to how Zimbardo has acted since. This article clarifies aspects of the latter.

It comes down to the fine line of explaining why someone carries out an action and excusing that action. We’ll need to think about that some more when we look at the study in the coming year.

6) Smoking And Psychosis

People suffering from severe mental illness are also likely to be heavy smokers. The obvious explanation for this is that they use tobacco to self-medicate. There remains the possibility that the causal effect works the other way round. This is explored in this mental elf article here.

It is an axiom of social science that correlation does not imply causality. However, where the correlation involves a behaviour which shortens people’s lives, it is incumbent upon us to speculate on what those causes might be. This relates specifically to the question of whether rules about smoking which apply to other public building should also apply to mental health units. This article explains some of the issues.

7) Mental Health Services For Young People

Here are a couple of articles which might alarm you.


Part of the negative attitudes to mental illness which we have been exploring might be explained by the poor service which many people experience. Things may get worse as people are forced to access mental health services as a condition of continuing to receive benefits. This article explains what the problems might be.

8) Placebo

A useful survey from the BBC, with a good link to some information on CBT.

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