Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Universities must promote free speech

Enough of safe spaces, no-platforming, and other pathetic leaning-over-backwards to placate the sensitive snow-flake generation.

Toughen up you brightest of the bright (allegedly)

Sir Michael Barber, the head of the new student watchdog has vowed to enforce free speech on campuses.

He says that students or academics who prevented discussion or debate out of fear of offending others were on a “slippery slope“. Universities, in his view, “should be places of intellectual and personal “discomfort”. Being comfortable was a step towards being “complacent” or “self-satisfied” whereas he thought more profound learning required discomfort.

The Office for Students  will adopt “the widest possible definition of freedom of speech – namely anything within the law” when it begins monitoring campuses in April.

He says he hopes they will never have to intervene (I think they’ll be busy) but if they do “it will be to widen freedom of speech rather than restrict it”

In defence of students he thought this generation “was demonstrably the best educated in history, hard-working, thoughtful, curious and ambitious“.  He then added “Then, just occasionally I read or hear something that suggests a potential threat to the freedom of speech that underpins such optimism”.

I think the problem is more widespread than he is prepared to admit. I anticipate some universities will be criticised and fined, if not suspended.

I have posted before about daft campuses.

 

 

 

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Brits are fatties – no getting away from it

  • Almost two out of three British adults are overweight.
  • We are the fattest country in western Europe.
  • Our obesity rates have doubled in the past 20 years.
  • We are the 6th heaviest developed country behind Mexico, the US, New Zealand, Finland, and Australia (some surprises there for me)

We also have high rates of teenage drunkedness (even though teenagers now drink less that previous generations), high cancer rates (and above average cancer deaths) and a shortage of doctors and nurses (18% lower than average for doctors and 12% lower for nurses), according to the OECD.

Our health overall is average for all the OECD countries but our obesity levels stand out. At least our child obesity rates have become stable at 24% unlike the rest of Europe where it is increasing. But that still means 1 in 4 children are very fat!

The worry is that it’s now becoming normal in Britain to be overweight. With Public Health officials being sensitive to medical staff actually telling parents their kids are fat.

The Obesity Health Alliance of doctors and charities said the results were shocking and the solution lies in stopping children becoming obese.

The National Obesity Forum chairman said “One could weep over the figures, the results of successive governments who have done nothing for 30 years”

Public Health England said “our plans to tackle obesity are among the most ambitious. We’re working to make food healthier and delivering campaigns encouraging people to choose healthier food and lead healthier lives. Change will not happen overnight

Perhaps if we called a spade and spade and named and shamed parents of obese kids we might get somewhere instead of pussyfooting around so as not to upset anybody. Letting your kids become obese is child abuse surely?


Young people addicted to smartphones

An experiment to separate young people from their smartphones discovered that they suffer from anxiety, unhealthy eating and loneliness when they are not online.

Not only are they becoming part of Generation Mute (people who are obsessed with their phones but hardly ever use them to actually speak to people) they are becoming addicted to their mobile devices and appear to be suffereing from FOBO (fear of being off-line).

In the experiment the young people had to live with a basic phone and no internet access for a week.

They missed out on the news and celebrity gossip and were less punctual because they couldn’t access timetables on line. But they did spend more time reading (surprised they knew how to).

Some of the participants slept better. One was appalled at having to use a paper map to find a venue.

The Chief Executive at Innovationbubble which provided the psychologists to run the experiment said “We are psychologically overloaded with so many jobs … which means that mindlessly using our mobile can contribute to our fatigue levels and overall mental health

Ask yourself why are we overloaded. How did we manage before social media took over the world? Young people can’t think for themselves relying on their mobile devices and spending hours every day on them.

As I’ve posted before this affects their brains .

And as for being lonelier without their phones, the evidence is that using social media like Facebook can actually make you lonelier and depressed.


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Generation mute missing out on real conversations

16-24 year olds are increasingly losing the ability to communicate face to face – or even on the phone. Telephone calls are now the 10th  most used function on a mobile phone. People who use their mobile phones for over 2 hours a day only spend 20 minutes actually speaking to someone on it.

Only 15% of them consider phone calls the most important method of communication compared to over twice that many who prefer instant messaging. In America 80% of millennials (born 1981-1997) felt more comfortable using text messaging rather than having a telephone conversation.

On the other hand 43% of adults over 24 years of age say phone calls are the most important means of contacting others, more than double the younger age groups.

Teenagers even prefer texting each other when with each other according to an Ofcom survey.

Ofcom said that respondents admitted to instant messaging, texting or e-mailing others even when they are in the same room. Just over quarter of adults did the same but the figures rose too 49% for teenagers.

Instant messaging services such as Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp are becoming more popular as wi-fi access becomes less of a problem as traditional texting is declining. Facebook Messenger claims to have reached 65% of the UK population via mobile phone and WhatsApp 47%.

When people are actually avoiding having a telephone conversation something is going wrong. But  the statistics show that time spent on phone calls in Britain reduced by 10% between 2011 and 2016.

Phil Reed, professor of psychology at Swansea University and an expert on internet addiction is concerned that the increased use of social media can lead to isolation and loneliness (a theme I have posted about regularly).

He says “Friendship involves reciprocity and empathy, which social media does not lend itself to. Talking we can interact, interject; we present ourselves relatively unedited”.

It seems young people are losing the art of conversation which is important in life. Not just socially but going for interviews and in adapting to new settings.


Top UK university upsets students by encouraging them to work hard

Top ranking Cambridge University has really gone floppy on its attitude to students having to work hard.

When Professor Eugene Terentjev, director of studies in the natural sciences, e-mailed his students about the need to work hard and party less if they wanted to succeed, saying the course required their full attention it created shock waves.

Students were said to be horrified saying his stance was “extremely damaging“. The vice-chancellor  at Buckingham University (VCs are those over-paid people we keep hearing about who seem to do very little) accused him of “frightening impressionable undergraduates“. And mental health campaigners said the message was “neither appropriate nor acceptable“.

You might think him a bit of a killjoy for saying they would need their full mental capacity for the course with not much time for fun “Physical science is a VERY hard subject, which requires ALL of your attention and your FULL brain capacity (and for a large fraction of you that will not be quite enough” but the reaction was way, way OTT.

He also had a dig at other universities where students drink a lot and have a good time, and even other courses at Cambridge saying that some of them sadly found that kind of behaviour acceptable. He did however finish by wishing them well and hoping they would succeed like previous students.

The mental health campaigning group Student Minds Cambridge was worried that the message could enforce feelings of “imposter syndrome” (where people don’t believe they are good enough and are there under false pretences).

The students’ union said it would have welcomed advice about work-life balance and ensuring you had enough rest between parties but didn’t like the message that having any kind of social life was unacceptable. It urged students adversely affected by the e-mail to seek counselling or see their GP. Definitely in snowflake territory if these so-called top students are so affected by an e-mail.

The university said that “the university believes that all first-year students in all disciplines, having undergone the thorough admissions process that Cambridge requires, have the capacity to succeed academically

That’s OK then. Stop worrying and do what you parents told you – work hard and don’t drink too much.


Brexit makes us happier – official!

Yes, despite all the remoaners and the continued onslaught on Brexiteers by the BBC and others, official government figures from the ONS show that on three key measures we are happier than before the referendum!

Ipsos Mori asked three key questions as part of the ONS household personal well-being survey: How happy are you? How satisfied are you with life? and How worthwhile do you feel?

Not only did people score higher on all three but there was a 4% increase in people who felt very happy. And this despite the political uncertainty and terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. Shows how resilient we are.

There was however an increase in scores of anxiety and the results only apply to England. The Scots showed no change in their scores. Hard to please up there.

The researchers also asked if people thought they would be better off leaving the EU. Last October 26% said to would make no difference. In March that figure rose to 40%. The ONS thinks people are becoming more relaxed about Brexit.

Academic “remoaners” and the BBC take note!

Local data: In Burnley, Lancashire, they are happier than the national average and 10% happier than last year. Check out your own local scores here.