Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Today is World Mental Health Day

Every year on this date the World Health Organisation (WHO) declares it as World Mental Health Day to raise awareness of the wide scale problems of mental ill-health.

If you want to know more go here

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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.


Are you teaching your kids to be quitters?

Biz Psycho

Not a good thing! Research clearly shows the importance of perseverance in school and in life.

So next time you are struggling with a task in front of your children don’t make it look too easy. By trying and repeatedly failing at a task you are helping children understand the value and importance of persistence.

Many cultures emphasise the value of effort and perseverance. This emphasis is substantiated by scientific research: individual differences in conscientiousness, self-control and ‘grit’ correlate with academic outcomes independent of IQ” wrote scientists at  the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

They wondered if persistence and quitting could be learnt. “Does seeing an adult exert effort to succeed encourage infants to persist longer at their own challenging tasks?”

In an experiment they ran at MIT, reported in the journal Science, 250 15-month old children watched adults perform a task getting a keychain attached to a carabiner out…

View original post 210 more words


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


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


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.


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?