Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Norway tops World happiness league

Yes the Norwegians have toppled the Danes from the top position, but it was a close finish.

The UN’s World Happiness Report measures “subjective well-being” mainly by asking a simple question: “Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to number 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?

The average result is the country’s score. So Norway scored 7.54 whereas the Central African Republic scored only 2.69.

The report also looks at economic strength (GDP) social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice, generosity, and perceived corruption. Having a job was also important although white-collar jobs were more associated with happiness than blue-collar ones.

To see the full report go to http://worldhappiness.report/

The top 10 countries

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

The USA came 14th and the UK 19th (Bristol was named the best place to live in Britain in 2017 by the way)

Western Europe dominated the list with African countries doing least well. The regular dominance of the Nordic countries (see previous reports) has encourage others to adopt the Danish concept of Hygge – the concept of cosiness and relaxation.

Denmark has always done well in these kind of comparisons, for example for work-life balance, for how satisfied they are and for  being a good place to live

Note on the flag. The Norwegian flag is interesting because apart from using the red, white and blue  – symbolising liberty – and the Nordic cross (centred towards the hoist or flag pole), it incorporates the white cross of Denmark and the blue cross of Finland.

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The world is becoming more short-sighted

A couple of years ago I posted this elsewhere when experts were blaming too much time spent on near electronic devices, smartphones, tablets, Kindle et. With the increase in the use of mobile gadgets and smartphones since then the risk must still be there, if not greater.

It’s been suspected for a while that lack of outdoor activity – for various reasons including safety fears – where you are exposed to UV light and can focus on distant objects more easily, and over-indulgence in screen time, has led to an increase in the number of myopic i.e. short-sighted, children. I also posted on research from Cambridge University about this over six years ago.

More recently scientists, at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Australia, were predicting that half the world could be short-sighted by 2050 with 1 in 10 people suffering sever myopia.

The increase is particularly acute in Asia. 90% of teenagers and young people in China are short-sighted and in Seoul 96.5% of 19-year old men are too. In Europe and the West about half of young adults have the condition.

The scientists, reporting in the journal Opthalmology,  said “Among environmental factors, so-called high pressure educational systems, especially at a very young age in countries such as Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, and China, may be a causative lifestyle change, as may the excessive use of near electronic devices

If true the message is clear. Get off your backside, ditch the gadgets and get outside to enjoy the scenery.


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.


Pendle Forest Sculpture Trail

I’d set off expecting a mile walk along the trail. The teacher who told me about it forgot to mention you had to walk 2 miles from the car park in Barley just to get to the start point at Aitken Wood. NB The pamphlet advises you that you need 2-3 hours to get round.

Someone else told me it was a bit steep and I took this to mean the trek up past the reservoirs – not the actual trek up through the forest. There’ll have to be a cable car to get me up there again!

And as for the weather. Never mind Mist over Pendle, it was raining most of the afternoon. The proper wet stuff you get in Lancashire.

The story of the Pendle Witches has long been familiar round these parts and the sculpture trail is an excellent way to get involved with local history.

The sculpture trail is very well done. A combination of sculptures and plaques produced by four artists: Phillipe Handford, Steve Blaylock, Martyn Bednarczuk, and Sarah McDade.

I was in the company of two coach loads of primary school children who swarmed over everything making it almost impossible to get clear photographs and the wet overcast weather didn’t help either.

However here are a few of the sculptures starting with one of  a witch-finder based on the local magistrate Roger Nowell who started the investigation and subsequent prosecutions. He’s shown with papers with Alice Nutter’s name on the top.

There are also bats, an owl, a spider’s web and a copse of broomsticks among other interesting sculptures made from wood, ceramic and steel, plus ten ceramic plaques which symbolise the ten people prosecuted as witches back in 1612.

There is even a symbolic Quaker tree which represents where the Quaker movement started when George Fox had a religious vision on top of Pendle Hill in 1652.

Statue based on local magistrate & witch finder Roger Nowell

Bats

Spider’s web strung between trees

An owl in flight

Look closely and you’ll see broomsticks growing

 

 

 

 


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.