Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Autism charity supported at Tesco Burnley

Alison Booth, a member of staff, has volunteered to live inside a glass cage for 50 hours to raise money for the Caudwell Children charity.

She says “I’m really passionate about generating much needed understanding and acceptance of autism and can’t wait to help Caudwell Children raise vital funds for their support services. Wish me luck

It’s not the only support this Tesco store provides. See earlier post

Well done Tesco!


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Men, women still want you – but only if you are perfect!

Women only want Mr Perfect!

If you thought the chick-lit era was over, with no more searching for Mr Right a la Bridget Jones or Sex in the City; or that WAGS were now irrelevant –  then you were right, but oh so wrong! At least according to Amy Turner’s piece in the Sunday Times a while ago (which I just found in my draft box); “Mr So-So has no chance with the SAS girls”. That was 7 years ago; has anything changed?

Because it seems that then women still wanted to meet the man of their dreams – Civitas think tank found that 70% of women aged 20 – 35 want to get married – but only if they found Mr Right. In particular so-called SAS women: successful, attractive and single – say they are happy enjoying themselves.

As one SAS women, described as having “endless legs and sparkling repartee” (sycophant-speak for skinny public school girl) said; “I’m fabulous and I want someone equally as fabulous to join my party“. Not much narcissistic self-referencing there then and hardly suggesting an equal partnership (see “Princess on board…”).

Not for them Lori Gottlieb’s advice in; “Marry him: the case for settling for good enough”. As my management consultant colleagues might say, SAS women are taking a “six sigma” rather than just a “fit for purpose” approach and as one of my guest bloggers pointed out recently; “Male modesty doesn’t pay”.

But why should women settle for less now that they are increasingly holding the purse strings? Experts  in the USA think that by 2024 women will be earning more on average than men , particularly in Law, Medicine, and in academia.

There are already more females than males graduating and higher education is the best predictor of future financial success. And the trend is pretty much the same in the UK with more females than males graduating in Law and Psychology for example.

In America five years ago only 1 in 4  women in dual-income households earned more than the men; now it is up to a third and if that trend continues more women in middle-income jobs like teaching and healthcare will overtake men.

In America female graduates have flocked into cities such as New York and Dallas to find “gender-blind” jobs with the result that women in their 20s are now earning 20% more than their male counterparts.

A number of factors have influenced these trends: a sharp decline in the birth rate in cities where more women go to college, more men losing their jobs than women (women occupied more part-time jobs) in the recession (the “mancession“), and an increase in family-friendly – which usually means women-friendly – jobs.  And you could probably add to that the feminising of education.

So what do you think? Will women today settle for second best?


Rich areas have fewer divorces or single parents

Almost 90% of parents from the top two socio-economic groups are married in places such as Harrow or Wokingham according to a new marriage map produced by the Marriage Foundation.

They say “if our neighbours are married we are more likely to be married ourselves. In richer areas everyone across all social classes is more likely to be married, regardless of how well off they are“.

Across England and Wales the average marriage rate for people in socio-economic groups A & B is 79%.

Twenty council have higher proportions of married couples in these socio-economic groups.

  • Harrow – 88%
  • Wokingham – 87%
  • Surrey & West Berkshire – 86%
  • Buckinghamshire – 85%
  • Barnet – 85%

At the opposite end of the socio-economic scale the marriage rate in Liverpool and Knowsley among socio-economic groups D & E (manual and non-workers) is only 25%.

No more than 30% of parents with dependent children in the bottom 20 council areas were married. The average rate for marriage in these groups is 37%.

  • Liverpool  & Knowsley – 25%
  • Salford, Blackpool, Wirral & Lambeth – 27

Experts believe that children from unmarried families have to contend with yet another factor which influences their life chances, inequality and social mobility.

A child born in 2017 has only a 50% chance of living with both parents by the time they reach fifteen. Of those parents who do stay together until their children reach fifteen, 93% are married.

And while there may not be a causal effect between being married and being rich if you don’t want your children to grow up poor you need to find a partner willing to work full-time according to Frank Field, a politician with a long interest in social inequality and fairness. Perhaps wealthier couples have more to lose if they split up so stay together longer regardless off how poor their relationship is. If you don’t have a lot to start with then you don’t have a lot to lose and you might be better off single and on benefits.

As my earlier post said, staying married might depend on how much you agree about money matters


Todmorden turning into another Hebden Bridge?

My fellow blogger Kindadukish told me about a new cafe he’d found which he thought was worth a visit for our weekly “business meetings”.

I had a look online and it seemed interesting but then I noticed it was vegetarian.

Now I know my friend isn’t averse to eating on the wrong side of the tracks from time to time as it were but I’m a dedicated omnivore.

However I decided it was worth a try and as we thought at least I could have an omelette. Well no as it turned out. They don’t do omelettes (although they have other dishes with eggs in them). Too much trouble they said. So I had to settle for a potato hash thing with an egg on top. It was OK but I left half of it, it just wasn’t appetising enough for me.

The Illy Italian coffee was very good though, with a very smooth and rounded flavour.

However the service was a bit hit and miss. I ordered a ginger IPA but they forgot about it and even when reminded it took a while to come to the table.

They also allowed dogs in which I object to. (When I was visiting Keswick I had the same problem. Thank goodness for Costa coffee and Wetherspoons which don’t allow them)

The building is the old Todmorden Industrial & Cooperative society and has scrubbed tables and an interesting collection of canned beers with fancy titles (and prices to match) as well as bottled ones. They also sell seconds crockery and there were some nice pieces although I couldn’t see the prices.

Outside and next door is the Kava cafe – yet another vegan and vegetarian venue. This was a quick visit, I had another appointment to go to and I was parked on a 60 minute spot. However Todmorden seems to have a free parking policy on all its public car parks, no wonder they were all full.

Before I left I took a couple of photographs of the Rochdale canal area.

There is a guillotine at Lock 19 and some interesting fish art on the wall alongside the canal.

My friend took several photos so I’m sure they’ll appear on his blog soon when I’ll make a link to it.

In the meantime you can check out this stretch of the canal on the Pennine Waterways website.

I will probably go back for another visit providing I can find a “proper cafe” – although I’d go back to the Co-op for its coffee. If I’d wanted veggie I’d have gone to Hebden Bridge again, not far up the road (or canal.)


Drinking wine gives your brain a good workout

As you relax over the Bank Holiday weekend avoid the fizzy drinks that shrink your brain, stick to wine and give your brain a workout.

Doesn’t matter if its red or white. Either will do the job and make your brain work harder.

According to a neuroscientist drinking wine “engages more of the brain than any other human behaviour“.

Professor Gordon Shepherd has spent ten years developing a science of neurogastronomy and researching this subject at the Yale School of Medicine (I wonder what their wine bill has been?) and has now published his findings on wine drinking in a book; Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine.

One of his findings is that spitting out the wine at wine tastings prevents you fully appreciating the wine. (I always thought they spat it out so they wouldn’t get drunk before they’d sampled everything).

Swallowing the wine is a key process and vital for “obtaining the most information possible about the quality of the wine”. Well I always thought wine was for drinking so that’s good advice – if a bit obvious.

More seriously he has shown that it is our psychological, sensory and physical response to food and drink that combine to create flavours in objects that don’t inherently possess it.

Taste is an illusion created by the brain largely influenced through smell. The movement of the wine through the mouth and of air through the throat and nose are key, especially the movement of molecules released in the mouth when we breathe out. So sniffing in advance may be a waste of time.

Wine drinking engages more of the brain than listening to music or solving a maths problem apparently. “The molecules in wine don’t have a taste or flavour but when they stimulate our brains our brain creates flavour the same way it creates colour”.

Moving the wine inside the mouth engages intricate muscles that control the tongue as well as stimulating thousands of taste and odour receptors. That is then processed through a frame of reference that is “heavily dependent on our own memories and emotions and those of our companions” as well as the composition of our saliva and our age and gender.

Research in the UK at Oxford University also demonstrated how complicated our relationship with food can be and how our enjoyment of it is influenced by environmental and other factors.

But back to the wine. Once you’ve had a few you’ve saturated the system which perhaps proves the point about having the good stuff first and then moving on to the plonk when everyone’s had a few.

And while you’re digesting this science – and hopefully testing it out in a real world laboratory – you can get rid of your long-stemmed glasses.

Now the only way to drink your wine – and any other serious booze – is from a tumbler. It’s the new relaxed ambience according to those who claim to know these things.

“Formal stemmed glasses feel quite traditional … don’t be afraid to have mismatched selections on your table

This is part of the Polpo aesthetic, the tumbler style of drinking showcased by the award-winning Venetian restaurant as a reaction to the exhausting “sleek, chic” protocol of the early Noughties.

Gosh I sound so pretentious even writing this stuff!

But it’s also a response to the recession, social media and the “democratisation of food” or what a famous chef called “elbows on the table kind of food“. It might also be about wanting to be more relaxed at home where we feel more secure (maybe the Danish Hygge influence?).

Also traditional glasses are breakable, not dishwasher friendly and take up lots of room on your shelf.

Well I have to say I’ve been drinking wine out of a tumbler for a couple of years now. I bought some small wine glasses when I was on medication so I could easily control how much I drank and the habit stuck when I came off the meds.

But eventually the glasses broke and rather than grab a large long-stemmed glass I used a tumbler. Any tumbler from a whisky glass to a coloured cheapy from Tesco that reminds me of those unbreakable Duralex glasses we use to have at school.

More importantly, I’m a big fan of Inspector Salvo Montalbano, the cool Sicilian detective that appeared on our screens a few years ago. And he always drinks his wine from a tumbler!

Cheers!