Post Of The Week – Sunday 30th August, 2015

1) Jim Al-Khalili On Quantum Biology

This isn’t Psychology really but it might tell us quite a lot about what we do. There’s a BBC programme and a shorter TED Talk. Jim Al-Khalili is a physicist. In these items, he is applying what has been known for a while in quantum mechanics to the problems of biology.

There are a couple of things here which concern us. Firstly, quantum theory is being used to explain the process of evolution. In particular, it might explain why changes such a the evolution of lactase persistence happen quickly. Secondly, what research in this area shows is how research questions bring people from different science disciplines together. Biologists, chemists and physicists have to start talking to each other. We should aim to be part of that conversation.


2) The Process Of Publishing Data

I spent some of last week completing the Research Methods pages for the new AS. This includes peer review and the difference between primary and secondary data as well as issues of reliability.

This podcast features Bradley Voytek. He explains how he uses a computer program to scan thousands of peer reviewed articles online in order to understand patterns in data and to make predictions. This shows how the internet is able to bypass the old model of a research report being published in a journal which sits on the shelves of a few university library.

Science is based on the idea of replicability. We can run an experiment and get the same results over and over again.

This article refers to the replication project run by Brian Nosek from the University Of Virginia. He aimed to replicate 100 key studies to see if he could replicate the results. He did so in just 36% of cases. The article explores what this might mean. As with many things, Dorothy Bishop offers a thoughtful analysis of this finding. You can read it here.


3) Compassion

Biological explanations of social cognition weren’t part of the cognition and development topic when I started teaching it almost 20 years ago. Vygotsky wasn’t on teacher training programmes but Piaget was when I did my training. That has changed as we come to understand more about how individuals interact in their social world. Paul Gilbert sums this change in thinking and direction rather beautifully.


4) The APA And Torture

This is a bit of a worry. Psychology has always had its dark side, be it dissidents in the Soviet Union being treated in psychiatric hospitals or the CIA carrying out studies on the effects of LSD in the 1950s. I tended to think that this was a few rogue elements on the fringes of the subject.

This article is worrying because it comes from a respected source: Harvard Law School. It explains how in the US, each state has a review board which oversees the conduct of Psychology and deals with complaints against psychologists. These review boards persistently ignored complaints about the conduct of psychologists involved in torture, as did state courts. These review boards contains the great and the good of Psychology. Listen carefully to what Philip Zimbardo says towards the end of this sequence. Make your own mind up about whether you agree with what he says.


5) OCD

OCD is new to the A Level specification. I need to get my head round the research in this area quickly. Uta Frith presented a programme on OCD which you can see for a bit longer here.

Here are some accompanying resources.


6) Martin Ling

Martin Ling has had a successful career in football both as a player and a manager. Here, he talks about his experience of mental illness.


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