Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Facebook – yet another intrusion into your privacy

Yes they want to spy on your facial features in real-time so they can judge your mood and target you with relevant adverts. Just split up? Have some booze. Where will it end?

Facebook was granted  a patent in 2015 for emotion-detection software that will allow them to discreetly take control of your phone or computer camera while you are browsing so they can analyse your emotions. Then they can serve you uplifting adverts. Or manipulate you in other ways of course. They will be spying on you without your knowledge.

Facebook calls this spyware “passive imaging data” which means its taking footage when you’ve not got your device switched on. Then an algorithm (they love their algorithms at Facebook (and Amazon too for that matter) decides if you are happy sad or bored.

Facebook has continued in its quest to analyse your emotions and manipulate you by getting patents that analyses how hard and fast you type  and adjust the font size or change the emoji to reflect your mood. In fact the have another where they analyse your facial expression instead.

They’ve already been criticised for telling advertisers that it could identify when teenagers felt insecure” or “worthless” and in need of a confidence boost.

You have to ask about Facebook‘s ethics here. Never mind that fact that they are lax in closing down jihadis and hate sites, relying on the public rather than employing enough people to monitor the platform, this is yet another intrusion into your personal space.

Zuckerberg is a messianic about this believing that no-one should have any boundaries and we should all share information (except himself). It’s time Facebook and the other tech companies learnt to respect their users a bit more.

If the government did this there would be an uproar. Companies like Facebook try to operate globally so they can avoid legal restrictions (and tax).

Part of this I blame on the freebie culture and sense of entitlement among young people. If they had to pay for Facebook directly (rather than through the advertising revenue Facebook generates) they might think differently. However given they way they voted in the recent general election I doubt it. One day they will realise that nothing in life is free.


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


Oxford University publishes list of micro-aggressions

In the latest snowflake newsletter from Oxford University students are warned to be aware of micro-aggressions by the university’s equality and diversity unit (an oxymoron if ever I heard one as you’re not allowed to express different views anymore).

So if you don’t look another student in the eye you might be guilty of racist behaviour. This is absolute poppycock. What about cultural differences where it’s considered inappropriate to look someone directly in the face? Or people who are shy, or introverts, or on the autistic spectrum?

And don’t ask a black or minority ethnic student where they are “originally” from. It might suggest you don’t believe they are British. Well they may not be and what if you are interested in knowing more about other cultures? Isn’t that why you go to university – to expand your mind?

And don’t joke about someone’s accent. Not even Geordie, black country (can we still call it that?) or scouse accents? (And didn’t Sir Lenny Henry make a living out of funny accents?)

The newsletter says that subtle everyday racism can appear trivial but “repeated micro-aggressions can be tiring and alienating (and can lead to mental ill-health”).

It says some people who do these things may be entirely well-meaning and would be mortified to realise they had caused offence. “But this is of little consequence if a possible effect of their words or actions is to suggest to people that may fulfil a negative stereotype or do not belong”. Or they might just think “get over it”.

The coordinator of the Free Speech Ranking project that highlights censorship on university campuses, called it ridiculous. “This is all part of a chilling desire on the part of university authorities to police not just opinions but everyday conversations between students. It’s not only deeply authoritarian, it has a chilling effect on how students interact with one another“.

The university defended the advice saying that “the equality and diversity unit works with university bodies to ensure that the university’s pursuit of excellence goes hand in hand with freedom from discrimination and equality of opportunity and the newsletter is one way of advising and supporting staff towards achieving these aims

What about freedom of speech and encouraging students to think for themselves? All this advice is tiring and irritating to those of us who live in the real world.

Update 28/4/17 from BBC website

Oxford University has apologised for saying that avoiding eye contact could be “everyday racism” after it was accused of discriminating against, and criticised for being “insensitive” to autistic people who can struggle making eye contact.

It said it had made a mistake and not taken disabilities into account. In a series of tweets, the university replied: “We made a mistake. Our newsletter was too brief to deal adequately and sensibly with the issue. “We are sorry that we took no account of other reasons for difference in eye contact and social interaction, including disability.

“Oxford deeply values and works hard to support students and staff with disabilities, including those with autism or social anxiety disorder.”

Some academics argued the guidance was “trivialising racism“. Emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, Prof Frank Furedi, said the newsletter’s authors “need a reality check“.

It was basically a misguided PC argument put out by ill-informed people at what is supposed to be one of our top universities. Despair.


Just wait until you’re 50!

Then you can be one of the “nifty fifty” generation identified in a survey of 50,000 people aged 50 and over by Sun Life.

These are the people who say they are happier than they’ve ever been (two-thirds of them) – even compared with their youth – as well as wealthier and more carefree. They feel that they’re four years younger than their actual age physically and ten years younger mentally.

They also think old age begins at 77 and expect to live to 84 years of age.

And 50% of these Gen-Xers (taking the pressure of Baby Boomers here) are taking up travelling and spreading their wings. 20% are learning a language and 10% want to learn to play an instrument.

They’re even claiming that they’re having better sex than ever before!

Now this age group is 1/3 of our population so it’s worth taking note. One 51 year-old woman said “I seem to enjoy the little things in life a lot more – appreciate art, nature and simply being at home, on the sofa with a herbal tea, vegging out and not feeling guilty about it“.

That hardly sounds like spreading your wings to me, unless herbal tea is code for something stronger? Whereas one women aged 54 said she “had had the best sex of my life with younger men“. Now that’s more like it, a cougar!

A different poll of 1,500 British adults by the Royal Voluntary Service found that two-thirds of people aged over 70 also claimed that they were happier than they’ve ever been. Half even said that they were in the prime of their lives, which I think is probably exaggerating just a bit. But as they said that not worrying about what people think of them was a benefit of getting older they can say what they want!

Thank goodness there are some things to look forward to as you get older!


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Social media really is bad for kids (as if you didn’t already know this)

It only takes one hour a day on social media to make children unhappy, whether it’s Facebook or Snapchat or any other platform.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield asked 4,000 10-15 year-olds to rate how happy they were with different aspects of their lives.

They found that the more time children spent chatting online the less happy they were about their school and work, their appearance, their family and their life in general.

Spending only 1 hour a day on social networks reduced the probability of a child being completely happy with his or her life by 14%.

This is three times higher than the impact of being in a single-parent household and greater than the effect of playing truant.

However they did feel happier about their friendships. They just haven’t realised that social media friends are not real friends as previous research has shown. Spending time on social networks can actually make you feel more lonely.

Some experts argue that spending time on social networks diverse children from risky behaviours such as smoking and under-age drinking (but what about sexting?) while other studies show that it contributes to poor mental health, especially among girls. And in this study it was also the girls who felt worse about their appearance and their school.

90% of 16-24 year-olds use online social networks and younger users routinely get round the 13 year threshold for users. More than three-quarters of 10-12 year-olds have social media accounts. According to Ofcom children aged 8-11 send 11 hours a week on social media and 12-15 year-olds almost 19 hours, both figures double what they were 10 years ago.

But do the social network providers care? Of course not, it’s all about advertising revenue for them and the earlier they catch people the better as far as they’re concerned. You only have to look at the resistance of Google/YouTube to doing anything about the hate videos and pornography to realise what drives them. $$$$…

And it’s interesting that the likes of the late Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley techno-billionaires didn’t allow their own kids to access social networks.


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Want a lasting relationship? It’s all about money

As you know from experience (or one of my recent posts) it’s not about sharing housework or childcare or even sex (although men might disagree).

The secret to a lasting relationship is to have a similar attitude to money.

It doesn’t matter whether you are spenders or savers as long as you both agree.

In a survey of 5,000 adults by three charities (carried out by YouGov for Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care) family finances were the biggest cause of tension in relationships.

It wasn’t the actual financial pressure that led to problems but the issues of trust, candour and values.

Other issues such as bringing up children, alcohol consumption, even extra-marital affairs, were less critical.

  • 20% of people in the survey  cited lack of compatibility
  • 19% said different sex drives cause problems
  • 17% blamed poor work-life balance
  • 16% said they had different interests
  • 15% said division of household labour caused problems
  • 12% said alcohol consumption caused problems
  • 12% thought jealousy was a problem
  • 10% blamed the in-laws or extended family
  • 9% blamed the fallout of discovering extra-marital affairs
  • 8% said bringing up children caused problems
  • 6% blamed spending too much time on-line
  • 5% blamed smoking
  • 4% thought tensions over stepchildren caused problems
  • 3% blamed political differences

A counsellor with Relate said “The key is to be completely open and honest with each other about your values, feelings and spending habits. Make sure you’re both clear on how you plan to share finances, pay bills, and manage your spending”.


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Women don’t like macho men after all – but kind ones

Good news for all us wimps out there then?

A big salary, DIY skills, along with a strong sex appeal doesn’t do it for women who want a good relationship.

No, what they want is someone who is a good companion and has empathy.

Never mind sharing the household chores, just be a good listener and a friend.

This is according to recent research by the Marriage Foundation.

 

 

Low scoring characteristics

  • fixing things around the home (least desirable)
  • a sense of adventure
  • being strong
  • being sexy
  • being romantic

Higher scoring characteristics (in descending order)

  • being a friend
  • having an interest in children
  • having an interest in their partner
  • being kind
  • showing forgiveness
  • being a good lover
  • being protective
  • being funny
  • earning a decent salary

The survey found that 80% women still do most of the household chores but don’t mind as long as their partners spend time at home (so no nipping to the pub when she’s cleaning).

Three-quarters also did most of the childcare but half of them thought that was fair and said they were happy with their relationship.

The research director for the foundations said “almost any relationship thrives where there is kindness. Kindness is everything. It shows thought, consideration, care. It shows you notice and value. being kind is inactive decision that requires some kind of action. When somebody is kind it hugely attractive”.