Post Of The Week – Sunday 25th October 2015

1) Robert Plomin On “The Life Scientific”.

Robert Plomin is a behavioural geneticist whose work has created a degree of controversy. You can listen to an extended interview with him here.

Plomin’s big idea is that variations between individuals in academic success can be explained substantially by genes. This is the conclusion of a large scale, longitudinal study he did of twins in this country and also of an adoption study carried out in the US. The interview is useful because he explains the methodology of both twin and adoption studies and explains exactly what we mean by variation. There are two points about the discussion to note. Firstly, he admits that understanding that genetics play a part in understanding differences in outcome is only part of the story. The thing we really want to know is which genes. This is likely to be a complicated story involving many genes. Secondly, he accepts that his findings may be taken up by people on the left or the right of the political spectrum to justify their point of view. He suggests that politics is about values whereas science is about truth. We should take what he says seriously.

2) The Neuropharmacology Of Addiction

This lecture from Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes looks at what we know about how addiction takes place within the brain and how drugs deal with it.

The science here is tough to understand but an important part of what she does here is to tackle the assumption that all addiction is a consequence of excessive dopamine activity in reward pathways in the brain. She takes this idea apart, showing that addictions are different and that multiple mechanisms affect addictive behaviour. She even refers to the same image of the dopamine pathway which we use in lessons. This makes the use of drugs to address addiction very complicated. The impression is that we are at a moment of change in the way addictive behaviour is treated.

3) Teen-Age Risk Taking

Here is an overview of some of the ideas in this area from The Guardian.

4) Sesame Street And Autism

Sesame Street may have been part of your childhood TV experience. It is still running. Here is an article with video link explaining a new initiative to educate young children about autism.

We’re fast approaching the time of year when we look at autism as part of the cognition and development topic. One of the ideas we think about is whether a theory of mind can be taught. Children lacking a theory of mind cannot be taught one unless they have some sort of interaction with others. Initiatives like this pave the way.

5) Gratitude

This article suggests that gratitude is the key to preserving a marriage and preventing divorce, reducing the negative effects of poor communication.

In our work on maintenance of relationships in A2, we think about Eli Finkel’s work on the marriage hack. This involves couples spending a few minutes writing about a recent dispute from the point of view of a neutral third party. Finkel makes strong claims about the effectiveness of this method in promoting marital satisfaction. Gratitude involves thinking about what someone else has done for you as opposed to what you expect by right. It is therefore part of the process of thinking about what is fair.

6) How Stress Affects Your Body

A really good TED-Ed video.

7) Employability In Psychology

Jeb Bush, US presidential candidate, suggested this week that Psychology majors were experiencing problems with getting graduate jobs and that perhaps the American university system needed fewer of them. Here’s a post about what he has got wrong in the US.

Here is something, admittedly a bit out of date, on the position in the UK.


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