Post Of The Week – Sunday 20th November 2016

1) Autism In Adults

This article tells the story of adults diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. It goes into depth on the nature of autism and how our understanding of autism is changing. It refers in particular to the issue of gender and autism, something we have been thinking about in Year 2.


2) Motherese

In the Year 1 course, we learn about caregiver-infant interactions, focusing on interactional synchrony and reciprocity. This article explains these interactions at the level of neuroscience. When the brainwaves of mother and infant are in tune, the infants  seem to learn more effectively.


3) Milgram And Debriefing


This isn’t easily accessible as a link so I have inserted it as a screen shot. We noticed in lessons this year that Milgram’s study can be criticised for the unethical treatment of participants because they were deceived and experienced distress. They did, however, receive a debrief. This quote from Milgram’s defence of his study shows that Milgram was ahead of his time in thinking about the treatment of his participants. It has emerged that some of his participants only received their debriefs in writing several months after participating in the study. The most important phrase here is perhaps “in my judgment”. When Milgram was doing his research, he relied on his own judgement as to the ethics of his research. In the fifty years in between, a system of guidelines and management through ethics committees has been established to ensure that the ethics of a study do not depend on one person’s judgement.


4) Educational Genomics

We are familiar with the idea that genetic variations may determine the course a mental disorder might take in an individual. We also saw as part of the nature-nurture sub-topic that it is now possible to attribute about 10% of the variation in GCSE scores to a set of known genetic variations. The implication of this is that it will be possible to predict who will do well at what in school and then to shape the curriculum and its delivery to individual needs based on genetic profile. This article explains this in more detail.


5) Free Will

This podcast from The Guardian looks at the free-will determinism debate. The debate is fraught with problems of definition. The definition we use of free will as the absence of other cause predates Psychology and goes back to the philosopher Immanuel Kant. More contemporary definitions of free will focus on intention and self-control. In the view of Patricia Churchland, the brain is a “causal machine”. Free will on this view lies not in the absence of cause but in the way in which we choose to pursue one course at the expense of another. This point of view is reflected in the definition of soft determinism with which we operate in our course. The interest in neuroscience now is in understanding how self-control can be demonstrated in an account of how the brain functions.


6) Reminiscence Bump

If you are a sixth form student, you are entering the reminiscence bump. People recall events from the period of age 15 to age 25, apparently because these events go a long way towards defining and determining the course of the rest of a person’s life. This article explains more.


7) Applied Behavioural Analysis

Based on the principle of operant conditioning, Applied Behavioural Analysis has been the treatment of choice for people with autism for many years. It works by breaking down desirable behaviours and training them a bit at a time. This article explains the issues. People with autism don’t like it because it is training them to be people they are not. There is concern that the processes of positive and negative reinforcement and punishment cause distress. The therapy has evolved to work alongside other types of therapy and is looking at ways of using insights from brain imaging to personalise treatment. This is very useful as an example of how the behaviourist approach has been applied and developed.


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