Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Noisy kids getting short shrift in pubs and cafés – and not before time!

Who doesn’t enjoy a meal out with the kids? Well pubs and cafes it seems.

The editor of the The Good Pub Guide says most landlords welcomed families “with their fingers crossed behind their backs”. The disruption caused by children running amok or babies screaming uncontrollably now accounts for more public dissatisfaction than anything else.

And when staff ask the children to be quiet they get abused by over-protective parents who should be sorting it out themselves.

Pubs obviously need the business and can make more money from children’s portions but it’s a fine line. One pub, The Waterfront in Burton-on-Thames, which actually banned under-5s because parents refused to move high chairs and prams blocking exits had a Facebook page set up asking people to boycott the pub. Fortunately trade hasn’t suffered.

And it’s not just pubs. Coffee shops have the same problem with yummy mummies and their off-road sized prams. The Organic Kitchen in Epping Forest decided enough was enough saying riotous children were spoiling the café’s atmosphere. The proprietor, who bought baby-changing facilities and high chairs when she first opened, said there were far too many instances of mums going in with new-born babies and just allowing them to cry. So now there’s a “babies banned” sign saying “No children under 5″.

And it wasn’t just the noise. Prams “the size of Essex” blocked passageways and made it difficult for staff when carrying hot food. Well-behaved children are still welcome but parents aren’t the target customers anyway as the café has a Los Angeles ambience serving avocado on rye bread!

Of course not everyone is happy, one mum saying it was discrimination against parents (against poor parenting maybe). Another called Annabel thought they were “shooting themselves in the foot as there were three independent schools and two state schools in the street“.

And parenting site Netmums defended families saying we are family-unfriendly in the UK compared with the rest of Europe and so our children behave accordingly. What utter bilge. If they had some manners they’d know how to behave but don’t blame the parents of course, it’s everyone else’s fault for not understanding.

But it’s not just the Brits who are getting fed-up with kids in eating and drinking places. The Dutch have a No Kids Allowed group which invites people to compile a list of hotels, restaurants and cafés free from “screaming, stomping, screeching, snotty children and their permissive parents“.

Within a month of being set up the group has received a torrent of TV and press coverage and a national newspaper poll showed that 70% of its readers supported the idea of banning children from some restaurants.

One of the groups organisers Annabel Nannings (obviously not Epping Forest Annabel) is herself a mother of a two-year old said her visits to restaurants in her native Amsterdam were often spoilt by children running around annoying staff and diners. “People do nothing about it or assume you like their kids” she said. “It’s not normal, desirable behaviour and shouldn’t be accepted“.

A parenting adviser from the Netherlands Youth Institute said it was too easy to criticise poor parenting and that she was more interested in positive labelling for places parents can go where their kids feel at ease.

I first blogged about this 5 years ago when a coffee shop in Berlin banned prams.  This was about the time my colleague and I had sadly forsaken our favourite bistro, where we used to meet for a glass of wine and coffee to go over the week’s business, when they introduce kid’s menus. Suddenly the place was invaded by oversized prams, noisy kids and mums on smart phones oblivious to the havoc they were causing.

I had occasion to meet some friends there recently but warned them that there might be a problem with kids and prams. We got there at 1100 and it seemed OK but before long the yummy mums arrived in convoy complete with their “essex prams”. Too late to leave as by then we’d ordered! Fortunately they went upstairs. Maybe they’d got the message?

The more people and proprietors make a fuss the more parents might think twice about inflicting out-of-control kids on the rest of us.


So wine is good for you after all!

Catching up on the latest on drinking and health I found that the Times had recently set out several good reasons why you should drink wine, especially red wine.

It can help boost your memory – according to researchers at the University of Exeter. Given up to 4 units of alcohol volunteers remembered lists of words better than those who had none. Wine grapes contain anti-oxidants called polyphenols with one of them, resveratrol, particularly associated with health benefits including keeping muscles supple.

Red wine contains more of the anti-oxidant resveratrol which has been linked with longer life span in animals and anti-cancer effects on cells in laboratories.

Another study found that a phenolic compound found in champagne helped improve spatial memory. So best to drink champagne if you have to find your way back home afterwards!

Wine can also protect against diabetes, which has got to be a good thing given the increasing number of people with it in the UK. So 14 units a week for men and nine for women reduces the chance of Type 2 diabetes by 43% for men and 58% for women!

Several studies have looked at the effect of drinking wine on the immune system and a University of California study in 2013 found that a glass of wine a day helped stave off infections such as colds. The effect was found to be especially strong, in an earlier study, among people who drank more than 14 units a week. They had 40% less chance of catching a cold than teetotallers. Again red wine better than white because it has more of the anti-oxidants.

Studies in Denmark of over 20,000 post-menopausal women found that drinking wine can have a protective effect on the heart. Other studies suggest that moderate drinkers have lower rates of heart disease compared to teetotallers, hence the view that wine is good for your heart.

This may be due to a flavonoid called procyanadin which is linked to lower blood pressure.The best wines for this are those where the skin and seeds have remained in contact with the grapes during fermentation such as those from the Nuoro province of Sardinia and Madiran in the Pyrenees.

Researchers in Canada also believe, after studying over 9,000 adults aged 23 to 55, that moderate drinkers i.e. those who drink up to two glasses a day, had a lower risk of heart disease than non-drinkers. This effect wore off as people got older however. The scientists think that the reason teetotallers are more at risk is not that they don’t drink – but they are probably ill or can’t drink because of their medication.

Studies at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that women who drank 3 glasses of wine a day were half as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, a disease where the immune system attacks the joints rather than infections as it is supposed to do. Drinking wine might interfere with that process.

Italian scientists in Milan think that the compounds tyrosol and caffein acid, found in white wine, act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Two glasses a day maximum could reduce the inflammatory reaction

Red wine has also been linked with breast cancer. Studies in California found that red wine reduces the oestrogen levels and elevates testosterone levels in pre-menopausal women. White wine didn’t have the same effect.

However there is also research from the World Cancer Fund which suggest that women drinking only half a glass of wine a day increases a woman’s risk of cancer after menopause by 9%.

And women who want to get pregnant should be aware of the Danish research that shows that drinking one glass of wine a day lowered the chance of conceiving by 18%

So good news overall with some caveats. Red wine seems better than white except for people with rheumatoid arthritis and probably no wine at all if you are trying to get pregnant.

Other posts on drinking wine here and here

 


Happiness is being cash rich

Yes, rich enough to employ other people to do the stuff you don’t like doing – like cleaning.

A study of 6,000 people in the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark and the USA asked people how much they spent outsourcing disliked tasks.

Despite the vague description people didn’t hesitate to identify scrubbing the toilet bowl as their least favourite task.

The researchers also gave 60 people $40 to spend on two occasions. On one weekend they had to buy a material product and on another they had to buy something that would save them time.

In all cases people were happier spending money to save time, such as taking a taxi home. People with less money were even happier. So ideal for the cash rich and time poor.

The Professor who ran these studies has since employed a host of domestic services and moved house to cut down commuting time and spend more time with her partner.

What happened to the protestant ethic?

Other post on happiness


Poynton High School and misplaced ideals!

And here’s a charity that didn’t begin at home, more’s the pity given the outcome.

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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A group of students have been sent back to the UK after Indian officials said they had the wrong kind of visa to visit a charity they were supporting. The 16 students and three staff were refused entry at Chennai Airport by immigration staff even though the school had made three previous visits.

Poynton High School head teacher David Waugh said the school and local community was “shocked and saddened”.The school said airport officials claimed the group had no rights to enter the country on their visa because they were going to be undertaking work with a non-governmental organisation.

The group had to return home with the toys and other items it was taking to the children in India.

Mr Waugh said: “They were going to play with the children they have helped and paint a mural. “The staff and students are in a state of tired shock having travelled for 48…

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Autism “locked in” stunt backfires

The Caudwell Children Charity (founded by phone millionaire John Caudwell) has abandoned its “Locked in for Autism” stunt after criticism from people on an online petition which said that it was offensive to suggest that’s how people with an autistic spectrum disorder had to live their lives.

Alexis Ragaliauskas has autism and set up the petition saying “It’s very dehumanising and insulting. Caudwell Children need to get with the times. They are saying autism is like being trapped in a box which is offensive – quite a lot of autistic people throughout history have been restrained and put in boxes”.

Tesco is a big supporter of such causes and a member of staff at the Burnley branch volunteered to stay in the glass box for 50 hours (see my post). I learned since that she raised over £2,000 so well done Alison.

Tesco has now withdrawn its support for the stunt. Whether because of the petition or perhaps the revelations in a Sunday Times report last month that the charity was funding pseudoscience therapies for people with autism raised alarm bells.

Caldwell Children has apologised “for any distress caused as that was most certainly not (the) intention”.

I feel sorry for Tesco, which has started other initiatives in my local store

However people need to be wary when they donate to charities which are spending money on unproven remedies.


Swearing has its plus side

As someone who doesn’t swear a lot and gets a bit embarrassed when I hear young women using profanities I was surprised to read some of the latest research on this subject.

Researchers have discovered that as much as fine words might inspire you actually swearing gives you strength.

Psychologists led by Richard Stephens from Keele University measured people’s grip strength and exercise bike performance. They found they did better if they were allowed to swear at the researchers while doing it. 

Stephens wanted to investigate the power of swearing as “there are strong links between swearing and emotional arousal” and wanted to see how deep the links went. Earlier research had found that people resisted pain better if they were allowed to swear.

In his pain research he had people holding their hand in iced water for as long as they could. They were allowed to repeat a swear word of their choice or a neutral word. Those swearing lasted longer but their heart rate increased. He wondered whether it was connected to the fight or flight response in which case they might also be stronger when swearing as they prepared themselves for action.

So swearing during the strength tests proved effective – but there was no evidence of a fight or flight response. However swearing lessens pain and when people felt less pain they were stronger.

Stephens wonders whether or not the fact that the people in the experiment knew the words were taboo but said them anyway somehow loosened up their constraints and let them go for it a bit more.

So expect more cursing down the gym any day now!

And in a completely different field of endeavour, book publishing, it seems that they have overcome the traditional reluctance to use swear words on the cover of their books. Because they sell more!

Last year there were 181 titles with the F word in the title, three times more than the previous year. And titles with the word shit in them have doubled (so have shit titles in my view but that’s another story).

So you can buy cookbooks, style books, colouring books and self-help manuals all featuring the F word.


Scrap GCSEs and help develop children’s character

What a refreshing change to actually have a head teacher criticise the headlong dash for A* and A grades.

Jenny Brown, head of the highly academic St Albans High School for Girls, said children were forced to sit dozens of exams which they don’t need.

She thinks 4 or 5 would be enough – English, Maths, A Science and a couple more (I’d like to see a foreign language being compulsory).

She admits this will create tension between school,s and pushy parents. She believes  “we have to educate and lead parents. It is insane that at the age of 16 we have an eight-week period where (they) have to sit for over eight weeks of exam sessions, something like 24 papers”. At present her pupils take about 10 GCSEs with 90% getting A* or As so she probably has an uphill struggle.

Education is not a mad qualification grab. Employers are increasingly moving to qualification-blind applications and are assessing and making hiring decisions about qualities of character and mind in an hour-long interview” she added.

The qualities she is talking about that she thinks employers want are: curiosity, adaptability, and being a decent person with integrity. She believes schools have to help pupils develop in these areas. I couldn’t agree more.

She is not alone in these, what appear to me, sensible views. Sir Mike Tomlinson, former chief inspector of schools, called GCSEs a lot of wasted time and recommended only 4 key skills be tested at age 16.

Even President Macron of France is calling for the French baccalaureate to be simplified.

Most countries only test at 18 before university. British children are among the most tested in the world but what good does it do them?