Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Are millennials turning into snowflakes?

Everyone is aware of the snowflake generation by now, scared of their own shadows seeking safe places and avoiding anyone with a different opinion from theirs. Well that’s their loss of course and they will discover when they enter the world of work that you just can’t “no platform” someone you don’t like.

Now it seems the millennials – those born after 1980 –  are having problems too. Following the story that they are scared of handling raw chickens two new reports suggest that they are also scared of answering machines and sex!

Yes answerphone anxiety is the new affectation among these avocado loving hipsters. Some of them think that because they can be reached by multiple social media apps people don’t need to leave a voicemail.

It’s true that companies are tending to use voicemail and answerphones less these days in a move to improve productivity but some of us might actually prefer an answerphone to waiting in a customer queue.

But on a personal level the critics say it’s awkward to think of a suitable message when you receive one and it’s less convenient than an e-mail or text. Others claim having a voicemail helps them avoid real-time conversations that would cause them anxiety.

Perhaps if they spent more time having real face-to-face conversations and less time tweeting,  texting or communicating via apps they might develop sufficient social skills to help them deal with a phone conversation.

But at least one person said “I disagree because 99% of the time I don’t answer my phone. I say if it’s important enough they’ll leave a voicemail” You’ve got to wonder why they don’t answer their phone. Maybe they think they are too important to bother and it’s ok to inconvenience others. Narcissism is alive and well!

But not when it comes to having sex it seems. Millennials are putting off having sex longer than their parents did with over 10% of people still virgins at age 26.

Apparently fears surrounding intimacy and the pressures of social media are to blame. They are scared of being filmed without their consent for one thing.

A psychotherapist suggested that young people suffer from high levels of exposure to pornography and other sexualized content. “Millennials have been brought up in a future of hypersexuality which has bred a fear of intimacy. Young men fear being humiliated plus the fear of exposure in your Facebook group”

Facebook, that well-known respecter of privacy! There is a simple answer isn’t there. Don’t share on Facebook, don’t take intimate photographs to share, don’t go all over social media.

Get a real life!

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Going to Scarborough

As I crossed the Pennines last week the weather didn’t improve. I got on a bus in East Lancashire where it was 5 degrees and overcast. Then I caught a train in Manchester which was the same except it was trying to rain.  Just over three hours later I arrived in Scarborough where it was just as cold and overcast but with the sea mist in the air – or was it a sea fret?

I’d gone to see my brother working at the “Books by the Beach” book festival which he co-founded 5 years ago with the present director. This year he’d handed over the reigns and was acting in a consultancy role as well as chairing/convening several sessions with well-known authors.

So I had an invitation to stay at the Crescent Hotel, which is at the end of a row of Georgian buildings, and catch up with him for a couple of days. As a crime writer he travels the world and trying to meet him is not the easiest, the last time being briefly before a funeral. My friend calls him the yeti.

Starting off with a quick exploration of the town it was obvious that the book festival was well-publicised. I also noticed that the seagulls were enormous. No wonder they use owls to try to stop them pinching food from tourists.

We wandered up an alley where my brother showed me this wonderful shop full of guitars. Very expensive ones too. I made a note to visit Guitar Galleries the following day when it was open – not that I thought that I could actually afford anything in there.

Then we walked down to the Grand Hotel, in its heyday the largest hotel in Europe.

Architecturally it is interesting both outside and inside, reflecting its former grandeur.

In the evening we went down to the sea front to eat and found ourself in Antons, a converted chapel.

The following morning it was time for more exploration. We took the funicular down to the beach promenade and walked along the front. The funicular is operated by the Central Tramway Company and reminds me of Lisbon (or the Angels’ Flight one if you’ve watched the Bosch films based on Michael Connelly’s books).

The spa was off to our right but we headed towards the harbour and pubs. It seems like every seaside resort has the same arcades and fish and chip or ice cream parlours.

But there are also great views of the harbour, the castle, the Town Hall and the boats.

 

Then it was time to refresh ourselves in a local Sam Smith’s pub chatting with friendly locals and tourists mingling in the bar looking across the harbour.

We realised it was time to head back, past the house that King Richard III allegedly stayed in, past reminders of the old packet ships that sailed up and down the coast, and a reminder of how uninviting the sea was!

My brother Peter had to do his thing, chairing a session and interviewing author Robert Goddard, whom I’d met the previous evening. He was talking about his latest book “The Panic Room”, which I am now enjoying reading.

The fresh air had knocked me out so I retired to my comfortable room in the Crescent whilst Peter did another session with “The Yorkshire Vet” before we met up for a meal at the Fish Restaurant round the corner. Great food and friendly helpful staff. What more could you want?  And did I mention that food portions in Scarborough are huge?

As I was leaving my hotel to catch the train I noticed that the hotel was using the “mirrors by the lift” psychology. It’s used in stores too but basically the idea is that if the lift is a bit slow  then putting mirrors by the doors makes people less impatient as they are too busy checking themselves out in the mirror.

So this is my impression of Scarborough: a seaside fishing town with lots of grand old buildings alongside the amusement arcades, an expensive guitar shop, a funicular and a spa, friendly people, generous food portions, famous writers and a bit of psychology to finish off with.

Lots to think about as I headed back to Lancashire.


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Religious children more selfish, not a good sign

Given the current problems with religious fundamentalists trying to influence school policies about uniforms and the way children are taught British values – for example the way  head teacher Neena Lall, of St Stephen’s state primary in east London, who tried to prevent children under the age of eight from wearing the hijab in class, was attacked by muslim fundamentalists, I thought it worth while updating and re-posting this from one of my other blogs two years ago.

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The idea that religious children might be more selfish  may seem counter-intuitive as you might expect people with strong religious beliefs to be “better” people.

However a study carried out by the University of Chicago of children around the world aged 5 to 12 found that children brought up in a religious families were more selfish than those from atheist or agnostic ones. And the more they went to their place of worship, be it church or mosque, the more selfish they were.

The study used a test of altruism and involved sharing stickers with anonymous children in their school. The idea was to test the notion that being religious has positive associations with self-control and moral behaviours. Jean Decety, the lead author of the study, says this view is so deeply embedded that in some countries e.g. the USA, not being religious can make you a morally suspect person.

While Jesus may have believed in the social benefits of sharing in this study it was the non-believers who demonstrated the principle not his followers. Furthermore muslim children were more likely to believe that when their peers transgressed they should receive more punitive punishments.

This research fits with earlier studies which showed that religious people were the most selfish. And the point in a colleague’s blog about not needing to be religious to have moral values seems borne out by this research.

Why should this be the case? One view is that it is due to what is called “moral licensing when people use something good to justify something bad” without realising what they are doing. Religious people believe they have done something good simply by being religious and this gives them the licence to do something bad.

Doing something which strengthens their positive self-image makes them less worried about the consequences of doing something immoral. Decety said “I hope people begin to understand that religion is not a guarantee for morality and that religion and morality are two different things. Societies that cultivate secular values are more peaceful and generally “healthier” than those countries which anchor or base their values in religion

Personally I don’t think we should have any faith schools as I believe they are divisive. And when the Chief Inspector of Schools Amanda Spielman is warning that religious extremists are using schools to narrow children’s horizons and “pervert education”, I think that supports my view. She said some community leaders see schools as vehicles to “indoctrinate impressionable minds” – with extremist ideology in some cases. This is really worrying as there is good evidence that religious societies are more violent and suffer more anti-social behaviour than more secular ones.

 


Nurses have no time for compassion

On the one hand the idea that all nurses are compassionate creatures was never true. I say that as someone with 20 plus years experience working in the NHS and more recently as a patient.

That’s not to say some, maybe most, nurses aren’t. I particularly remember one who held my hand throughout an uncomfortable 2-hour eye operation carried out under local anaesthetic and another who rubbed my back during an endoscopy examination.

But according to a recent study of professional values there is “a moral vacuum at the heart of nursing”.

Nurses are so ground down that they end up as “robots going through the motions” with a focus on clinical skills driving compassion from the job“. Yet compassion is part of the UK’s Nursing Vision.

Eight out of ten say their work conflicts with their personal values much of the time. The study concluded that it was that moral disengagement that leads to patients being put at risk.

Kristen Kristjansson, the psychologist from the University of Birmingham who led the study, said that the state of nursing was far more depressing than any other profession he had studied including lawyers, teachers, and doctors.

He added “When you have been working for five years or more you usually realise that following the rules is not the only important thing. You have to rely on your moral compass” But the nurses didn’t.

In the study of 700 nurses almost half of them sad they acted the way they did because it was what the rules decreed rather than because it was the right thing to do.

The only standard was what was laid down in the codes. Unlike other professions they did;t seem to pick up on their own values as they got more experienced.

This is bad news for patients who can tell when someone is going through the motions. The nurses say they don’t have time to show care and compassion and often come away from patients feeling they could have done more.

Professor Kristjansson worries that this “Mr Spock” mentality means they could struggle in a morally stressful situation such as happened at Mid Staffs where few nurses felt able to speak out about patient neglect.

He thought it was positive that nurses were now seen as a professionals requiring degree-level skills rather than just as assistants to doctors but felt the pendulum had swung too much the other way, away from the ethical core of nursing. Nurses since Florence Nightingale had done more than administer medicines – they created an ethos in hospitals to put patients at ease.

Sir Robert Francis QC, who chaired the public inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal, backed up the Professor’s calls for more emphasis on virtue and character in nurses’ training.

A commonly accepted set of values has to be the foundation of professional practice to enable those with this vocation to navigate the ethical dilemmas they face daily”.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the report “demonstrates the emotional pressure on caring professions who, when faced with an inability to work as they know they should, become compromised”.

It’s almost five years since they decided to overhaul the training of health care assistants and introduced compassion as on of the 6Cs of nursing care (see post). Other research has shown compassion is a key characteristic of the best carers and there are questions about whether or not a degree  is really necessary?

It seems like we continually re-invent the wheel as far as nursing is concerned

The way things are going we will have fewer whistleblowers (not that the NHS has a good reputation for the way they treat such people) and the only way to wake people up will be another crisis.


Your face gives away your lifestyle and hides your real age

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Ladies who lunch

If you’re married, have fewer than four children, and come from a higher social class – you probably look younger than you actually are.

If you have lost a significant amount of weight, fallen down the social ladder, or are living as a lonely singleton – then you probably look older.

The combination of lifestyle, medical history and diet has a measurable impact on how your looks age.

Generally speaking a youthful face is an accurate indicator of good health (as is how energetically you walk).

Marriage is more beneficial for a woman knocking almost two years off her age (and if she moves up the social ladder she can look four years younger – and the same applies to men).

For men marriage generally only knocks off one year but having one to three children makes a man look a year younger while it makes no difference to a woman.

These benefits disappear in families with four children.

Looking chubbier as you get older helps men look younger as it smooths out the wrinkles. Adding 2 points to your body mass index (bmi) will take off a year whereas a woman would have to add 7 points to her bmi to get the same effect.

An affluent married man with no more than three children will look ten years younger than someone who is homeless, single and has lost weight (2 points off his bmi).

All the factors combined can lead to people in their 40s looking up to seven years younger than their contemporaries.

Public Health scientists at the Danish twin registry led the study published in the journal Age and Ageing.

They asked nurses to guess the ages of almost 2,000 identical and non-identical twins in their seventies. They then looked at environmental factors including marriage, parenthood and social class. Previous studies have shown that non-genetic factors account for 40% of the variation in perceived age.

The effects of heavy smoking are relatively  modest. You would have to smoke 20 a day for 20 years to gain extra wrinkles and tobacco smoke only causes half that damage to women’s skin.

However heavy drinking can add a year to both sexes as can diabetes, chronic asthma or the regular use of painkillers.

Excessive exposure to sunlight had no effect on the perception of men’s ages but added over a year to women’s faces by the time they reached seventy.

Depression makes women look a lot older than men. Almost 4 extra years compared with 2.4 for men.

One of the researchers, Dr Kaare Christensen, said “It is a lot more dangerous looking one year older than one year younger”. If you are not depressed, not lonely, not a smoker, and not too skinny, you are basically doing well”.

Dr Chris Philipson, professor of social gerontology at Keele University says “diet and exercise are crucial factors. You can do an awful lot over the age of 40 to 50 to change the way you experience growing old“.

Originally posted by me on ULearn2BU in 2014


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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 encouraged 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.