Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


You’ve got to feel sorry for the millennials

Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, have surveyed 2,000 people aged 18 to 70 on behalf of a Taiwanese electronics company to discover what worried them the most. They were concerned with trivial or “first world” stuff.

The biggest worries were:

  • waiting at home all day for online deliveries
  • forgetting passwords
  • fear of leaving their phones at home (See FOBO)
  • not getting enough “likes” on Instagram (See “like-buttons“)

The millennials in the study complained about avocado anxiety i.e. worrying about the quality of avocados in supermarkets – too hard or too mushy? Can’t have all those hipsters skipping  brunch can we?

And a third of Londoners worry about a shortage of Prosecco! This is twice the proportion of the rest of the country. Well they say capital cities don’t reflect the rest of the country.

The researchers compared the results with those from twenty years ago. In 1997 people were worried about:

  • having a happy relationship
  • earning enough to pay the bills
  • getting on the housing ladder

And people say that’s the kind of thing young people are worrying about today. It’s always been a worry!

But back to those fickle Millennials – so much has been written about this generation born between the 80s and the noughts. Sometimes called generation Y because they came after generation X.

Millennials grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially-networked world. They are the generation that has received the most marketing attention. As the most ethnically diverse generation, Millennials tend to be tolerant of difference. Having been raised under the mantra “follow your dreams” and being told they were special, they tend to be confident.

While largely a positive trait, the Millennial generation’s confidence has been argued to spill over into the realms of entitlement and narcissism.

They are often seen as slightly more optimistic about the future than other generations – despite the fact that they are the first generation since the those born between the two world wars that is expected to be less economically successful than their parents.

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Facebook’s “like” button is harming users

Who says so? Well the guy who created it ten years ago.

Justin Rosenstein has removed the app from his phone over fears of the psychological effects of social media.

He says “It is very common for humans to develop things with the best intentions and for them to have unintended negative consequences“. The thumbs-up symbol only brings “bright dings of pseudo pleasure“.

The like button was designed to increase your engagement with Facebook while analysing your preferences. Basically companies want your attention and your preferences so they can harvest more data about you to sell to advertisers.

You are making them mega-rich.

Other former employees of high-tech companies have warned about the dangerous effects of the “attention economy”.  Being distracted by technology seriously affects people’s ability to focus and also damages relationships.

See my earlier post on this here.


Rossendale 60s Festival

I was looking forward to the Rossendale 60s Festival last weekend but the horrible weather put a dampener on things.

Certainly when we visited one of the venues, Whittaker Park, it was sparsely attended.

And other venues around town looked empty with none of the live music I expected. Perhaps they were saving themselves for the evening.

Anyway here are some pictures to remind  you of those days of flower power and hippy trippy stuff!

There was even a row of mini cars to remind us we actually used to make popular cars in the UK.


Burnley Canal Festival 2017

For some reason I can’t remember I missed the 2016 Festival although I had enjoyed the 2015 one.

So I was determined to go along this year. I was also keen to see how they were making use of the new staging area built on Sandygate as part of the canal-side development.

Although it takes place at the weekend it doesn’t run over to the bank holiday for some reason so Sunday was the only day we could go – along with two lively grandchildren.

So down Sandygate to the main hub; food-stalls, live music from the flamboyant Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band and rat-pack style music from The Boogie Bill Roberts Trio, free canoe rides, art & craft workshops, henna hand-painting and lots more.

We didn’t spend much time at the Inn on the Wharf end of the festival which is where the rides and other play activities were based. (Organisers please note that The Inn on the Wharf wan’t up to scratch with out of order ladies toilets and no chilled bottles of beer on a day that they wished they could have every weekend).

We’d hoped to go for a ride on the canal taxi but it was only a one-way trip with long queues. So no chance to re-create that Titanic moment from the last time we did it in 2015.

Keeping a wary eye on the kids’ whereabouts I found lots of interesting photo opportunities but not enough time to capture it all. Here are some of the pictures I took.

NB I wish I’d taken some of the diverse food stalls but was too busy eating some Lancashire hotpot with mushy peas and red cabbage!

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Forecasting future trends 20 years ago

Kim Long, a Denver author, used to publish The American Forecaster Almanac. It was a prediction of trends for the coming year based on his analysis of magazines, trade journals, on-line databases and public surveys.

Looking through some old diaries recently I came across a story about his predictions he made in November 1996.

For 1997 he predicted the following:

  • Men will slick back their hair
  • men will grow sideburns and beards
  • grunge music will go mainstream
  • younger people will rediscover cocktails
  • cakes will be made smaller for single people
  • country and rap music will be less popular
  • granny glamour will become more common as older women show off their figures
  • there may be a return to more feminine looks
  • the nerd look will become popular with goofy glasses
  • shirts will be buttoned to the neck
  • skin-tight pants and shirts will be popular
  • mismatched loud patterns will also be popular
  • camping will be less popular as baby boomers don’t like roughing it
  • ocean cruises will boom
  • wellness vacations will become popular with an emphasis on weight loss and relaxation
  • Cuba will become a popular destination as it modernises its hotels and travel restrictions are eased
  • there will be parking meters that accept credit cards
  • there will be watches that transfer data from computers
  • the US post office will certify e-mail with a time and date stamp
  • Las Vegas will remain popular
  • there will be professional miniature golf
  • you will be able to buy pre-autographed books

Don’t forget this was for 1997 – twenty years ago. How many did he get right?

Well smart watches didn’t make it into production until a few years ago and when did the hipster look start? And e-mails have been and gone for the younger generation fixated on social media platforms.

Cuba has certainly gone up market with a Kempinski hotel which opened last year and health and well-being is big business.

It’s strange reading the list. If he’d predicted it for 2017 he would have hit the mark on most of them. The absence of craft beers or mention of the growth in coffee bars probably gives the game away but I’ll give him 8/10 even if he got the year wrong!

Remember it was almost 10 years before Facebook and twitter and the start of the growth in social media. It was also over 10 years before 9/11 when the world suddenly seemed to become a more dangerous place.


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.

Update 31 August

Now a coffee shop owner in Devon has banned under 12s from his establishment.The Chart Room, in Brixham, Devon is an ocean-liner themed coffee lounge which also houses antiques and collectables.

Bob Higginson said it was designed for people to experience the “opulence and splendour of early steamship travel without distraction”.

Can’t blame him


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