Post Of The Week – Saturday 8th October 2016

1) Super Recognisers

We’re on eye witness testimony in AS/Year 1. The research behind this link concerns officers whose job it is to recognise people from still images and CCTV: “super recognisers”. The research identified members of the public using a test in the Science Museum who were exceptionally good at this task. It found that the police super recognisers were no worse. Their skills were not just based on luck or confidence but could be demonstrated in the laboratory.


2) Brain Training And Working Memory

People like the idea of being able to train the brain in order to improve working memory. The problem is that while it is possible to train people to be better at training tasks, it is difficult to enable them to transfer success into the things they have to do day by day. This article reports research from Cambridge that shows tried combining brain training with brain stimulation. Although the expected gains were made on training tasks, this success did not generalise to maths tasks or IQ tests. The fact that people continue to believe these claims is down in part to evidence which has been cited in support of them. This piece from Mo Costandi highlights the shortcomings of some of this evidence and questions the premise of brain training that the brain can be exercised without being engaged in real-world problem solving.


3)  David Clark on IAPT

We use an interview with David Clark as part of our work on the cognitive explanation and treatment of depression. He has driven the development of IAPT: Increasing Access To Psychological Therapy.


He starts talking about IAPT about 2o minutes into this lecture. At 25 minutes, he talks about the economic implications of mental illness and the advantages of getting health care right. He goes on to explain how IAPT measures recovery and how it has addressed variations in outcome in different areas. IAPT has survived by providing successive governments with valid evidence of its effectiveness. It is looking to expand the range of conditions with which it deals, to make use of different therapies including mindfulness and brief psychodynamic therapy and to move therapy online.


4) CBT For Autistic Spectrum Disorders

In studying autism as a lack of theory of mind, we have in the past thought about whether a theory of mind can be taught. One way in which it might be taught is through CBT. This article looks at the evidence of the effectiveness of CBT both in addressing the core features of autism and in co-morbid psychological disorders. For something so prevalent, the quality of the research is surprisingly poor. There is some evidence of the effectiveness of CBT in both aspects under investigation.


5) Male Mental Health

We’ll be thinking about this in Year 2 in the coming week when we look at gender bias. Here’s an insightful piece from the Sydney Morning Herald about how people are developing innovative approaches to male mental health in Australia. It strikes me that there is a lethal combination of problems here. We live in cultures which emphasise differences between males and females: males are supposed to be self-reliant and strong whereas women are expected to be vulnerable and dependent. At the same time, we expect both males and females to access health services and use therapy in the same way: you have to go and make an appointment. That sounds like both alpha and beta boas at the same time.


6) Theory Of Mind In Primates

Theory of mind has been tested by false belief tasks. These involve presenting children with a story in which a character leaves a scenario and then returns to look for an object which has been moved. Children with a theory of mind will understand that the charter will look not where they know the object is but where the character left it. Baron-Cohen’s Sally Ann study is based on a false belief task. This article suggests that primates may be able to understand false belief tasks and therefore have a theory of mind. It depends on tracking the eyes of the primate. Here’s a piece from one of the researchers.


7) Craig Newman On e-Health

Craig Newman is a clinical psychologist and researcher based in Plymouth. Here, he talks about developments in e-health.


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