Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


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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I’m so lonely, I could die

ulearn2bu

stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170It’s not only the elderly who suffer from loneliness.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina now believe that a teenagers are just as much at risk.

Isolation can cause harmful changes to the body in adolescents just as in the elderly. Those with fewer friends are significantly more likely to have high levels of inflammation and higher blood pressure when they reach adulthood.

The scientists examined four age groups to find out why lonely people die earlier and are more susceptible to many diseases.

A large group of 12 – 18 year olds were asked about their friends and 8 years later had their blood pressure, bmi, and a test to measure inflammation. Social isolation made the teenagers 27% more likely to have high inflammation, a sign of biological stress, in their early adulthood.

A professor of sociology at the university, Kathleen Harris, said scientists had been concerned with the…

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English kids are not as clever as they’ve been told

ulearn2bu

Forget all the A* stuff. When it comes to global comparisons our kids are not doing very well at all.

They are the most illiterate in the developed world, according to a survey by the OECD.

It warned that many young people are graduating with only a basic grasp of English and Maths and are unlikely to be able to get a job in which they can afford to pay off their student loans.

English teenagers aged 16-19 were rated the worst of 23 developed nations in literacy and 22nd in numeracy. In contrast pensioners or those close to retirement age were among the highest ranked of their age group.

Most illiterate nations

  1. England
  2. Spain
  3. US
  4. Italy
  5. school_children_holding_learn_blocks_1600_wht_12276France
  6. Ireland
  7. Canada
  8. Austria
  9. Northern Ireland
  10. Germany
  11. Norway
  12. Sweden
  13. Denmark
  14. Slovak Republic
  15. Czech Republic
  16. Belgium
  17. Australia
  18. Poland
  19. Estonia
  20. Finland
  21. The Netherlands
  22. Japan
  23. Korea

The number of low-skilled people in England is three times…

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Girls more depressed & you can blame social media

ulearn2bu

stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170On the face of it today’s young people have never had it so good. Teenage pregnancies are down, fewer of them smoke and they drink less than previous generations.

So what have they got to be depressed about?

Well they spend an awful lot of time on social media, posting selfies, seeking approval from others. “Like me, like me” they seem to beg.

It’s a recipe for disaster and means they are continually comparing themselves with others. And it’s all artificial.

They spend hours making themselves up for selfies. I’ve taken loads of photographs at parties and invariably the women want to check the photos to make sure they’re OK.

Whether its posting selfies or posting posed photos on Facebook using cats, cuddly toys and even their babies as accessories, it’s all about wanting approval. Over half of teenagers are said to spend more than three hours…

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Most Mums don’t feel guilty about going to work

woman_scientist_solve_custom_text_puzzle_12407Really? Well thats what a survey by Mumsnet found – only 13% felt guilty about spending their time away from their children and almost half said it made them happier to be at work.

Mumsnet’s Chief Executive said “We often think of working Mums as harassed and time poor, rushing from school to the office with not a second to spare. But the reality is often more complicated. Most want to work or work more hours”.

A third of stay at home mums admitted they would prefer to work and 52% said staying at home was harder than going to work. So it sounds like they want to go to work to get away from their children.

The survey polled 900 mothers. I’m not sure it’s a big enough sample to be representative of the 1.5 million Mumsnet members – which looks like a middle-class pressure group from what I’ve read – and in any case may not represent all mothers. So I’m guessing not many of the mothers polled will be in minimum wage jobs and they probably have good childcare arrangements.

It’s a catchy headline but I’m not sure it reflects reality for a lot of working mums or mums who would rather not have to work but stay at home to look after their kids.

Interestingly in this survey almost half of the mothers said having children didn’t make them feel “mumsy“. Not much maternal spirit there then.


Baby Boomers – Stop Apologising!

grandma_cane_fencing_500_wht_192

Update: Now Matthew Parris has joined other middle-class writers having a go at Baby Boomers in his piece headlined “Fight back youngsters. Gran is mugging you” in the Times (15 June 2013). Just because a young teenage conservative had a go at him at a speaking engagement he felt the need to publicise David Willetts’ book on how the baby boomers stole their children’s future.

It’s a load of rubbish if you think about it as it was the politicians who sold our gold, allowed banks to oversell about every financial product they produced, and generally f*!*!*d us over.

He says 2/3 of benefits goes to pensioners, not migrants or the unemployed. I object to calling our pensions benefits as baby boomers worked all their lives to earn that pension and then have to pay tax on it!

Needless to say there was a backlash in the letters column the following week. One correspondent echoed my own sentiments telling the young to “stop bleating, toughen up and get on with it”. There was also a pice by a columnist in one of the Sunday papers (I’ve mislaid the article) also rebutting Parris’s piece by referring to her own elderly parents and how they were coping with life in austerity Britain on their pensions..

Original post

There has been a spate of stories over the last couple of years about how lucky baby boomers are and how they make it difficult for the current generation.

I’m sick of hearing it, and of people like Jeremy Paxman moaning about his “shame” about causing the next generation to suffer.

So when I read Valerie Grove’s piece in the Times today I thought at last someone biting back.

Do you think baby boomers ie those born in the aftermath of the second world war, had it easy? Well we didn’t.

We didn’t have a free NHS until 1948 and women had to pay for ante-natal care for their babies.

We might have had free school milk and orange juice but as Grove reminds us we had sweet rationing until 1953.

P1000931In fact rationing was worse after the war as the country struggled to recover. Bread rationing was introduced in 1946 (until 1948) and potato rationing a year later after the deep snow and hard frost in the Winter of 1946/7 destroyed crops and the ground was so hard that farmers had to use pickaxes and pneumatic drills to get vegetables out of the ground.

P1000933When it eventually thawed accompanied by severe storms many houses were flooded and destroyed and Canada was sending us food parcels!

Clothes rationing was stopped in 1949, petrol rationing in 1949, sweets and sugar rationing in1953 and met and all other food rationing ended in the Summer of 1954.

She was right about Xmas presents too: a book, often an annual, and a tangerine was typical.

Large school classes sitting in rows with the brightest at the back. No political correctness about upsetting less bright pupils. And regular visits from nit nurses.

One pair of shoes, darned socks. A pair of pumps for PE if you were lucky otherwise bare feet. NHS glasses in brown or pink frames (before they were considered trendy). Designer clothes? More likely grandma’s needlework and knitting.

We might have had the run of the nearby country side if we were lucky but we also had poor air quality with smog, so thick you couldn’t see 10 yards in front of you, (before smoke control legislation was introduced in 1956 & 1968) contributing to premature deaths.

You probably had more chance of a job when you left school at sixteen (fifteen if you weren’t at a grammar or high school) but wages were low. Clerical jobs in the public sector started at £250 – a year. OK you were included in the pension scheme when you were 18 but in those days public sector pay was lower than the private sector even at the top. None of the inflated salaries paid to CEOs in the public sector nowadays

Twenty years later we had an economic crisis following the closure of the Suez canal and dock strikes and the then PM Harold Wilson devalued the pound famously saying that the pound in your pocket would stay the same, and it would put an end to a “boom and bust economy” (so Gordon Brown didn’t make up that phrase!). And even 30 years on it wasn’t much better. Wages were still low and inflation high. We’d had the terrible Winter of 1973.

Getting a mortgage wasn’t easy – you had to have at least 10% deposit and if your wife worked you might be lucky to have part of her salary taken into account but women have babies and were expected to give up work. Even teachers and nurses.

And 60 years on many baby boomers are part of the sandwich generation. Still supporting their own children and in many cases caring for their own longer-living parents.

Baby boomers’ grandparents probably lived to see their grandchildren grow up and maybe have children of their own. Today’s generation will be lucky if they have any grandparents alive when they grow up and get married as  their parents often put children on hold for their careers and they themselves get married later. So something else for them to moan about when they don’t have built-in baby-sitters.

And the thing that really annoys me is the young generation’s sense of entitlement. That just wasn’t part of the equation for baby boomers. If you wanted something you worked hard for it, studied at night school unless you were one of the lucky minority to go to university, and worked two jobs. There was no bank of Mummy and Daddy. Stress was unheard of.

Baby boomers have probably lived through the greatest period of social change in modern times. We enjoyed the sixties through music and the freedom to dress up a bit, although it wasn’t all sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll by any means. Not everyone had a car or even a telephone, and foreign holidays and package tours were unheard of for most people until the sixties.

Many of us have final salary pensions – something available to fewer people now due in part to companies not topping up pension pots when things were going well, and deciding they could no longer afford them when times were hard, and thanks in no small part to the government turning a blind eye to greedy bankers who made sure they were well set up for their retirement.

So all I’m saying is we worked hard all our lives, paid taxes on modest salaries, had to make do without, saved for our retirement by having a mortgaged house, receive a poor state pension (the worst in Europe by a long way and half that of the Netherlands, the next lowest) and a modest occupational pension if we are lucky.

So if you think that’s unfair? Tough, get over it. We had to.


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It doesn’t add up

Despite recent governments investing £billions researchers at Kings College and Durham University have found no improvement in children’s understanding of maths.

In fact the number of 14 year-olds who know virtually nothing about maths has doubled in the last 30 years.

Despite all the fanfares about GCSE  and A level grades improving year on year anyone with half a brain knew that things weren’t what they seemed. Take grade inflation for a start. Grade A in GCSE maths reflects the same level of knowledge as a grade C in the late 1970s (which means I must have an A*** equivalent for my GCE maths).

Examples of questions given in the Times report last week were: O level maths 1979: “Prove that the internal bisector of any angle of a triangle..”; GCSE maths 2010: “Write the number 50,000 in words”, say it all.

The research was presented to the British Educational Research Association last week. The researchers compared results from 1979 with 2008-9 at year 9, mostly aged 14. They looked at elementary tests of algebra, ratio, decimals, and fractions. The proportion of pupils scoring the lowest grade went up from 6% to 16% in algebra and from 7% to 14% in ratio tests but results were broadly the same overall.

Yet 59% of pupils got a grade C this year compared with 22% in the early 1980s. As the researchers say “this is highly implausable” which is one way to put it. An absolute disgrace and a disservice to the pupils who think they have good grades but will struggle in the real world is more to the point I think.

Modular exams with endless repeats, group course work rather than strict exams, reliance on calculators, parental input, teachers fixing grades, and poor teachers  have all been blamed.

One thing everyone seems to agree on however is the need for more specialist maths teachers if we are not to continue producing innumerate young adults.