Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


They shall never grow old. 100 years since the end of WW1

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Tipping points

New research from Austria suggests that playing either upbeat or sad music can increase the amount of tips serving staff receive.

Neutral piano music has no effect but “uplifting music makes people happy and the better mood someone is in the more they tip. Melancholic music nurtures people’s helping behaviour. The manipulated customers want to hep the serving staff with higher  tips than usual” says Annika Beer a psychologist at the University of Innsbruck.

The tipping effect applied particularly to older customers, perhaps because they listen to less music than younger people, or it could be that younger people have less disposable income.

The experiment was carried out in quite an upmarket restaurant where the average bill for two people was about £90 (the average tip was £3.50 more under the experimental condition).

There has been other research on tipping behaviour suggesting that waitresses who wear red lipstick do better and touching the customer’s hand as you give them the bill can increase tips.

There is also research that suggests that playing faster music will make customers finish their meals quicker – obviously an ideal in fast food restaurants.


Happiness means different things around the world.

In Helen Russell’s new book “The Atlas of Happiness, the global secretes of how to be happyshe describes the way different countries see happiness and contentment.

It seems the Danes haven’t got the monopoly on this subject.

  • In China it’s about finding your meaning in life or “xingfu” – the state of being happy in the sense of living a meaningful life – not just being happy in the short term.
  • In Costa Rica it’s about staying positive and socialising. “pura vida” means the pure life and is about staying optimistic and happy in the face of adversity. It involves good food, good company – especially family, good weather, and the time to enjoy those things.
  • In Japan it’s about embracing the perfectly imperfect or “wabi-sabu” or simplicity and the beauty of age and wear. An appreciation of the things the way they are and revelling in imperfections in real life.
  • In Denmark, apart from the concept of “hygge“, they also have the idea of”arbejdsglaede” or happiness at work. Working long hours is a no-no (they work 33 hours a week on average) and regular breaks  for coffee and cinnamon buns de rigeur.
  • In India the idea is to focus on solutions not the problem. “jugaad” means frugal innovation, life hacks and a commitment to get things done all in order to get a positive outcome.
  • In Finland it’s “kalsarikannit” or getting “pants drunk”. Sitting in your well-insulated house in your underpants watching TV and getting drunk. I was told in Finland that they have a drink problem but this is elevating it to a different level and there is even an emoji for it.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the book!


Ukrainian Orthodox Church wanted to break ties with Russia – updated 12 October 2018

UPDATE

Ukraine secured approval yesterday to establish an independent church in what Kiev says is a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs, but the Russian clergy fiercely opposes as the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years.

A three-day synod presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, seat of the global spiritual leader of roughly 300 million Orthodox Christians, endorsed Ukraine’s request for an “autocephalous” (independent) church.

The synod will “proceed to the granting of Autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine,” a statement said.

The synod took several decisions to pave the way for Ukraine to set up its church, including rehabilitating a Ukrainian patriarch excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church for leading a breakaway church in the early 1990s. (source Reuters)

ORIGINAL POST FROM 25 SEPTEMBER 2018

People can’t fail to have noticed  that President Vladimir Putin has found God. For a former KGB chief and a presumably a hard-line communist back in the day this is truly his road to Damascus. Or is it?

Like the Tsars he has used religion as a “soft power” approach to influence all the orthodox followers in the former Soviet Union using Patriarch Krill as his go-to church man. He is said to have his own confessor (that must be an interesting experience) and was recently seen wading in ice-cold water at Epiphany (but then he’s always bearing his chest isn’t he?).

But the Ukrainians have had enough and want to break from Moscow. They accuse the Russians of hacking and even an assassination attempt on Patriarch Filaret who has been particularly critical of Putin using the church for political advantage.

He accused him of using the church to spread “propaganda that defends Russia and Putin” on a visit to America last week. After Russia invaded eastern Ukraine he called Putin a “cynical liar” who would suffer “eternal damnation in hell“. In return his superiors in Moscow excommunicated him in 1997.

Sunday Times picture

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the head of the orthodox church is expected to grant the Ukrainians self-governance (autocephaly) at next month’s synod. He too has been the subject of the hacking of his e-mails.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is very pleased about the chance of freedom from the Moscow and said he hoped that “no-one will try to turn it back”.

Moscow is understandably very unhappy, furious in fact, promising to cut off links with Constantinople (Istanbul) the heart of the orthodox faith for over a thousand years when it was capital of the Byzantine empire.

Patriarch Krill has suspended communications with Constantinople and has said he will no longer mention Patriarch Bartholomew in his prayers.

But that would be cutting off his nose to spite his face. Half of the orthodox followers – 100 million – are in Russia. Perhaps more worrying is that Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk ((similar to an arch-bishop) who is in charge of external relations in the Russian church has warned that “bloodshed would follow. Very christian!

But the former American Ambassador to Kiev, John Herbst, said that there are legitimate fears about how Russia would react as it would reduce Moscow’s “soft power”. And Moscow hasn’t just got Ukraine to worry about. Similar moves have been started in Belarus with the risk of it spreading to other former republics like Moldova and the Caucasus region. Archbishop Sviatoslav of Belarus said “Moscow has been doing everything to prevent the Ukrainian and Belorussian churches form receiving autocephaly“.

One of the reasons Moscow is worried that Ukraine will block access to Moscow’s control of holy sites including the monasteries in Kiev, the birthplace of Russian orthodoxy. There are many beautiful churches in Kiev – St Andrew’s, St Michael and Saint Sophia cathedral among others.

But the heart of it all is in the “Cave monastery” or the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. 

The Greek St Antony founded this lavrain 1051, after Orthodoxy was adopted as Kyivan Rus’ official religion.

It contains numerous architectural monuments, ranging from bell towers to cathedrals to the catacombs which St Antony and his follower Feodosy progressively dug out  and  where they and other reclusive monks worshipped, studied and lived.

When they died their bodies were naturally preserved, without embalming, by the caves’ cool temperature and dry atmosphere. The mummies survive even today, confirmation for believers that these were true holy men.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a guided tour of it with pilgrims from all over the world. Walking through narrow corridors hewed from the rock with only candles to light the way is not for the claustrophobic. You can see boxes and earthenware pots (marked with a stick-man symbol with upraised arms) of relics behind grilled alcoves as you walk along and hear monks chanting from somewhere in the depths – where only priests are allowed to go.

The main attractions of the Lavra include the Great Lavra Belltower, and the Dormition Cathedral, destroyed in World War II, and fully reconstructed in recent years. 

Other churches and cathedrals of the Lavra include: the Refectory Church, the Church of All Saints, the Church of the Saviour at Berestove, the Church of the Exaltation of Cross, the Church of the Trinity, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, the Church of the Conception of St. Anne, and the Church of the Life-Giving Spring. The Lavra also contains the St. Nicholas Monastery, and the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary andstrong stone fortification walls..

When I visited Kiev and toured this 28 hectare site I was intrigued to learn that all the revenue from tourists goes to the Russian church not to the Ukrainian one.

And it is big business. Apart from the usual tourist memorabilia (I bought a “Keep me safe ring”) they sell bibles, priests’ robes and all the paraphernalia used by orthodox priest. They even sell the onion domes to put on the church roofs.

So apart from a religious disconnect there are probably financial implications too.


Helicopter parenting isn’t helpful for child’s development but nurseries are!

A recent study of more than 400 children, starting at the age of two, suggests that helicopter parenting harms a child’s emotional well-being. 

This is a term used to describe parents who become over-involved in their children’s activities.

Toddlers whose mothers intervened more frequently in their play grew up to be less able to control their emotions and behaviour.

At age two the children were filmed playing and tidying up with their mothers. The activity was scored on how controlling the mother was – was she helping or intervening when the child became frustrated?

Over the next eight year the researchers returned to see how the children were developing. They interviewed them and teachers and parents and measured behaviour such as emotional control.

“When mothers are too controlling at age two and don’t allow their children to experience a range of emotions and practise managing tim, the child loses out on an important learning opportunity” said Nicole Perry from the University of Minnesota who carried out the study published in the journal Development Psychology..

The ability to regulate emotions ( a key component of emotional intelligence) was linked to a host of adaptive outcomes, including mental and physical health, greater peer likability, healthier social relationships, positive teacher-student relationships, and greater academic adjustment.

If parents want better outcomes they should send their children to a nursery. A recent French study has found that children sent to nurseries have better social skills and behaviour than those kept at home by parents.

Opportunities for socialisation and stimulation offered by quality centre-based childcare might prevent children from developing emotional difficulties, according to an observational study of 1,400 children who were tracked from birth to the age of eight.

Parents were asked to complete questionnaires at three, five-and-a- half, and eight years of age. They were asked how easily their children made friends, their behaviour and social skills. At four, eight, and twelve months of age parent were asked what childcare support they used.

The researchers found that for psychological development a nursery or crêche staffed by professionals was better than being cared for informally by family, friends, or a childminder.

Children who had been to a nursery, daycare centre or crêche – formal childcare (26%)- had lower odds of poor social skills, difficult relationships with peers, and behavioural problems, compared to those who received informal childcare (30%) or went to a childminder (45%).

If they had been in formal childcare for a year the odds were even lower. In contrast those who had been cared for by a childminder appeared more likely to have behavioural problems.

It seems girls do better than boys which they say is because formal childcare is about internalising behaviour, more common in girls than boys.

The study doesn’t prove cause and effect and the families were better educated and more affluent than average and the researchers couldn’t assess the quality of the childcare.

However the researchers concluded that “Access to high quality childcare in the first years of life may improve children’s emotional and cognitive development, prevent later emotional difficulties, and promote pro-social behaviours”.

In France 97% of children start school at three (in contrast to Scandinavian countries where they start later than in the UK) and formal childcare provision is open to everyone.


10 Tips for better health

According to  the Chief Medical Officer these are the ten things you should be doing to look after yourself (and others).

  1. Don’t smoke. If you can’t stop cut down
  2. Follow a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
  3. Keep physically active
  4. Manage stress by talking things through and making time to relax
  5. If you drink alcohol do so in moderation
  6. Cover up in the sun and protect children from sunburn
  7. Practise safer sex
  8. Take up cancer-screening opportunities
  9. Be safe on the roads. Follow the highway code
  10. Learn the First Aid ABC: airways, breathing, circulation

And as a Macmillan nurse once said “Be kind to yourself

 


Social media makes young people more lonely than the elderly

This comes as no surprise to me as I first blogged about this eight years ago – and a couple of times since.

The evidence is out there: social media is not good for your mental health. The survey linked the increase in loneliness directly to social media.

A new survey of 55, 000 people was conducted by BBC4’s All in the mind programme led by Professor of Psychology Pamela Qualter at the University of Manchester said “the response to the BBC Loneliness Experiment has been significant. People have provided valuable insights into when and how loneliness is experienced, how it relates to age, being alone, carrying responsibilities, employability and discrimination”.

40% (4 in 10) people aged between 16 and 24 sat they are often lonely compared with 30% over-65s. These are people with more so-called friends on Facebook – who they don’t know face-to-face -than they have in real life. They say that being told to get out more and date is the least helpful advice they receive because they can still feel lonely in company.

A similar exercise carried out earlier this year by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) also found loneliness is much more common among the young rather than the older generations.

The government actually appointed a minister for loneliness, Tracery Crouch. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi story.

There have been behavioural changes in the younger “sensible generation” less drinking and drug-taking, fewer pregnancies and this is probably because they are spending more times connected through phones and tablets and less time socialising (down 30 minutes a day since 2,000).

Professor Qualter also said “.. the stigma of loneliness… suggest we need to be kinder to ourselves when we feel disconnected from others“.

Just stay off social media and get a real life

Previous posts

Loneliness and health

Friends

Young people not communicating