Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Finland leapfrogs neighbours to claim top spot in happiness league

According to the UN’s annual report on happiness and well-being Finland is the happiest place on earth.

What’s not to like? Saunas, the Northern Lights, Moomins, Angry Birds, friendly people, Lapland, reindeers and Father Christmas (if you believe?).

And don’t forget heavy metal bands. A Finnish friend sent me a Nightwish CD swearing it was the national music of Finland. (Read more about them and hear them here).

The fact that it’s dark for half the year in the North and Summers are short doesn’t seem to bother the hardy Finns that much.

I’ve visited a couple of times to Helsinki and Espoo and apart from the difficulty in buying alcohol it seems a wonderful place. I’ve also flown to Lithuania via Helsinki on a number of occasions and it never closes (well once it did),and the airline crews are really helpful.

Finnair is my favourite airline – even though you don’t get free Lapin Kulta beer in economy anymore – and Helsinki is probably my favourite airport. Did I mention that the reindeer stew is very tasty too? And those liquorice and caramel toffees? And my Finnish felt boots I bought in Lithuania are perfect for this cold weather.

So congratulations on topping the list of 156 countries surveyed for the annual UN report. As usual the Scandinavians all feature in the top ten (along with several other countries that enjoy snow – is that significant?). In fact the same countries appeared in last year’s top ten but in a different order.

I described the methodology in last year’s blog on this topic here.

  1. Finland
  2. Norway (in top spot last year)
  3. Denmark
  4. Iceland
  5. Sitzerland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Sweden
  10. Australia

War-Torn countries and sub-Saharan Africa feature at the bottom of the table.

How did the UK do? We came in at 19th place, the same as last year, and the US dropped to 18th from 14th.

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Macclesfield Silk Museum………a place to treasure

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

As part of my continuing exploration of the industrial heritage of Cheshire I decided to take in a visit to the Silk Museum at Macclesfield. I know it may not sound the most exciting of places to visit but sometimes it is the unlikely places that turn out to be the “little gems.”

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The Silk Museum is housed in the original School of Art built in 1879 with land and funding granted by the council and public subscriptions.  The School had been founded in 1851 and initially used rented rooms in the Useful Knowledge Society building.  Its original aim was to educate practical designers for the manufacture of silk, but later it went on to offer more general art education and gained a reputation for producing high quality work.

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It formed part of a complex of buildings linked to learning in this area of the town, including the Free Library…

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British parents more relaxed about their children’s education

Brits are more likely to choose a school for their kids based on convenience rather than academic excellence. They also preferred a happy school environment over exam results.

And when it comes to homework they help less than parents in most other countries according to a survey by educational charity Varkey which surveyed 30,000 parents of children aged 4 – 18 in twenty-nine countries.

They helped on homework and school projects for an average of 3.6 hours a week. Only parents in Finland (3.1 hrs) and japan (2.6 hrs) were less involved.

Parents in India spend 12 hours a week, in Vietnam 10 hours, in Russia 8 hours, in Germany 5 hours and in Spain 4.8 hours.

Only 1 in 5 British parents worried about their children not being academically stretched compared to over 40% in Russia. This could be because we have more confidence in our teachers and schools.

Two-thirds of British parents rate the quality of state schools as fairly or very good, compared with a global average of 45%, and almost 90% rated the quality of teachers as fairly or very good – the fifth highest proportion of all the countries surveyed.

Unfortunately that confidence is misplaced. The UK is ranked 23rd out of 35 OECD countries when it comes to reading and 27th in maths.

Perhaps British parents should be less complacent and do more to help their children?

Winter Walks (1) – Letna

Great blog bringing back happy memories of my trips to Czech Republic and Prague in particular

PragueByKaty

Prague is lovely city also in winter, when the number of tourists slows down (but not that much as expected). It can be freezing but when the sun shines, its nice and almost warm for nice walk. Find some pictures from the winter walk on Letná hill and area, which rises above the river and the Old Town to combine walk in the nature with beautiful views with wandering through the residential area with hipster cafes, pubs, or design places.

Buildings built on bastions of Prague walls

I started my walk at Hradčanská tram stop and walked by the former ramparts around the Prime Minister villa for the views to the river from Hanavský Pavilion.

Hanavský Pavilion was built in 1891 for the Jubilee World Fair, it is cast-iron structure built as a representation pavilion (commercial) for Iron and Steel Company.

The view from here is really beautiful :-),

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This gallery contains 7 photos


Illegal schools should be shut down immediately & all home-educated kids registered

There has been a surge in the number of illegal schools and out-of-hours tuition centres according to the Department for Education.

Many of these are faith schools which teach almost exclusively religious texts – and they include all religions.

Ofsted has found over 350 illegal schools and have managed to inspect 200 of them. Fifty of these have been issued with warning notices and twelve are under criminal investigation.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, has again called for tougher powers to regulate and close illegal schools. Something councils have been calling on the government for some time to give them more powers but the government – or more likely their PC civil servants – are worried about upsetting religious groups.

Councils are convinced that many children being taken out of school to be  home-educated are actually being sent to these illegal schools.

Last year Spielman was quoted as saying “It is clear that weaknesses in current legislation allow some organisations to teach school-aged children religious texts full-time, while avoiding registration and proper scrutiny. Action is needed now to protect the children who attend these places”

The new education secretary has promised to get tough on this issue as there is growing concern that children are at risk of being radicalised, trafficked, abused, or growing up ignorant without a proper education.

And it’s not just illegal schools but children who are home educated or home schooled. A bill to require all children to be registered and tracked once they reach school age will be debated in the House of Lords next month. Last year there were 30,000 children known to be home educated, double the numbers five years previously. And that’s just those the authorities know about.

The education department says “Unregistered schools are illegal and unsafe. There are clear powers in place for local authorities and the police to intervene where children are being put at risk or not receiving suitable education. We expect them to use the and will support them to do so”.

So why do councils feel helpless and Ofsted restricted in what it can inspect? Hackney Council recently found almost thirty unregistered yeshivas in the borough educating between 1,000 and 1,500 boys from the Haredi Orthodox Jewish community.

Last year a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police said “segregated, isolated communities, unregulated education and home schooling are a breeding ground for extremists and future terrorists“. This is just one aspect of radicalisation. Judges appear to be going soft on convicted terrorists allowing them shorter or no prison sentences because they have children. Yes judge let’s give them back to their parents so they can influence them even more!

  • I hope the bill goes through despite opposition from do-good liberals (including luvvie self-publicists who boast about home education and are prepared to go to prison for their beliefs) who demand the right to educate their kids themselves. They are being selfish and denying their children the opportunity of a good education with recognised standards.
  • I also firmly believe that we shouldn’t have any faith schools at all. They are decisive and produce selfish children


Brits are fatties and lie about it!

Brits are eating 50% more food than they admit to according to latest research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Apparently we are exceeding the official health recommendations by the equivalent of one Big Mac a day.

Men are consuming 3.119 calories – not the 2,065 they own up to. And women are consuming 2,393 instead of the 1,570 they own up to.

The researchers used the National Diet & Nutrition Survey. Amazingly they found that a third of people in the survey actually claimed to be eating less than they would need to stay alive. People say that they are eating less than in the 1970s but it’s just not true as rising obesity levels illustrate.

This time the researchers used gold standard biological measurements of how energy is metabolised on a subset of the 4,500 in the survey. They then compared what this group said they ate and what the test results showed and extrapolated those finding across the whole sample.

Its’ clear you can’t trust self-report surveys when it comes to eating habits (or I suspect exercise habits as well).

See earlier posts on obesity


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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.