Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead)

The Day of the Dead is widely celebrated in Mexico and neighbouring countries as away to reconnect with dead relatives. A mixture of old, perhaps Aztec beliefs, and Catholicism it’s a time for skull painting, elaborate make-up and a generally good time all round.

It takes place between the 31 October and 2nd November covering the christian All Saints’ Eve, All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Days.

See earlier post

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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

 

 

 

 


At last government proposes getting tough on universities for smothering free speech!

Universities will be told by the government that they must uphold free speech and clamp down on student unions that “no platform” controversial speakers.

According to the Times, this could include powers to fine, suspend or deregister universities if they do not meet a statutory duty to commit to free speech in their governance documents, ensuring it is upheld by staff, student unions and student societies.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, set out plans to challenge the culture of so-called safe spaces in universities and punish universities that fail to protect freedom of speech on campuses.

In recent years student unions and campaigners have banned, or attempted to ban, a number of high-profile people from speaking at universities because of their controversial opinions. In one of the most infamous cases, feminist writer Germaine Greer risked being unable to give a lecture after Rachael Melhuish, women’s officer at Cardiff University, called for her to be no-platformed for her “transphobic” views. Greer eventually spoke under tight security.

Speaking about Greer’s situation, Johnson said it was “preposterous” for her to be banned from speaking in campuses. “She has every right, if invited, to give views on difficult and awkward subjects,” he said. “No-platforming and safe spaces shouldn’t be used to shut down legitimate free speech”.

Our young people and students need to accept the legitimacy of healthy, vigorous debate in which people can disagree with one another. That’s how ideas get tested, prejudices exposed and society advances. Universities mustn’t be places in which free speech is stifled.”

Nick Lowles, director of Hope Not Hate, LGBT activist Peter Tatchell and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, have faced being barred from speaking. The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been no-platformed by the NUS for several years.

Johnson said that free speech was one of the foundations on which the UK’s higher education tradition was built. “It goes to the heart of our democratic values and is a principle universities hold dear,” he said. He also told the Times: “Freedom of speech is a fundamentally British value which is undermined by a reluctance of institutions to embrace healthy vigorous debate. Our universities must open minds, not close them”.

Johnson said: “I want the OfS to work with universities to encourage a culture of openness and debate and ensure that those with different backgrounds or perspectives can flourish in a higher education environment.”

The scary thing about this whole no platform/safe space nonsense is that students want itA survey last year found that most university students (63%) are in favour of the National Union of Students (NUS) having a “no platforming” policy.

An Analysis by Spiked magazine, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, found that more than nine in 10 UK universities are restrictive of free speech. It’s just not acceptable. How can we prepare young people for the real world if they are over-protected at university?

Sir Michael Barber, chair of the OfS, said: “Ensuring freedom of speech and learning how to disagree with diverse opinions and differing views of the world is a fundamental aspect of learning at university. The OfS will promote it vigorously.

If this does get the go-ahead it might kill off this “snowflake” culture which has arisen and which helps nobody least of all students who should developing resilience. 

Just this week it’s been revealed that Cambridge University lecturers believe that the works of Shakespeare are too grisly for its English undergraduates and have issued timetables with trigger warnings and red triangles. The university says it’s not official policy and is at the lecturers’ discretion. Well it shouldn’t be.

Oxford law students are also given trigger warnings about violent cases. Glasgow medical students can skip lectures about how to break bad news to families.

Poor sensitive things – and that includes the wimpish lecturers  feeding these totally unnecessary demands. Let’s hope that when things change those highly paid (many would say overpaid) vice-chancellors might actually earn their money and stamp out this nonsense.

Sources: Guardian, Telegraph, Times


You’ve got to feel sorry for the millennials

Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, have surveyed 2,000 people aged 18 to 70 on behalf of a Taiwanese electronics company to discover what worried them the most. They were concerned with trivial or “first world” stuff.

The biggest worries were:

  • waiting at home all day for online deliveries
  • forgetting passwords
  • fear of leaving their phones at home (See FOBO)
  • not getting enough “likes” on Instagram (See “like-buttons“)

The millennials in the study complained about avocado anxiety i.e. worrying about the quality of avocados in supermarkets – too hard or too mushy? Can’t have all those hipsters skipping  brunch can we?

And a third of Londoners worry about a shortage of Prosecco! This is twice the proportion of the rest of the country. Well they say capital cities don’t reflect the rest of the country.

The researchers compared the results with those from twenty years ago. In 1997 people were worried about:

  • having a happy relationship
  • earning enough to pay the bills
  • getting on the housing ladder

And people say that’s the kind of thing young people are worrying about today. It’s always been a worry!

But back to those fickle Millennials – so much has been written about this generation born between the 80s and the noughts. Sometimes called generation Y because they came after generation X.

Millennials grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially-networked world. They are the generation that has received the most marketing attention. As the most ethnically diverse generation, Millennials tend to be tolerant of difference. Having been raised under the mantra “follow your dreams” and being told they were special, they tend to be confident.

While largely a positive trait, the Millennial generation’s confidence has been argued to spill over into the realms of entitlement and narcissism.

They are often seen as slightly more optimistic about the future than other generations – despite the fact that they are the first generation since the those born between the two world wars that is expected to be less economically successful than their parents.


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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…

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