Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Clean homes mean better academic and life outcomes for kids

Cleaning out my old computer files I came across this article from Psychology Today.

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Men, women still want you – but only if you are perfect!

Women only want Mr Perfect!

If you thought the chick-lit era was over, with no more searching for Mr Right a la Bridget Jones or Sex in the City; or that WAGS were now irrelevant –  then you were right, but oh so wrong! At least according to Amy Turner’s piece in the Sunday Times a while ago (which I just found in my draft box); “Mr So-So has no chance with the SAS girls”. That was 7 years ago; has anything changed?

Because it seems that then women still wanted to meet the man of their dreams – Civitas think tank found that 70% of women aged 20 – 35 want to get married – but only if they found Mr Right. In particular so-called SAS women: successful, attractive and single – say they are happy enjoying themselves.

As one SAS women, described as having “endless legs and sparkling repartee” (sycophant-speak for skinny public school girl) said; “I’m fabulous and I want someone equally as fabulous to join my party“. Not much narcissistic self-referencing there then and hardly suggesting an equal partnership (see “Princess on board…”).

Not for them Lori Gottlieb’s advice in; “Marry him: the case for settling for good enough”. As my management consultant colleagues might say, SAS women are taking a “six sigma” rather than just a “fit for purpose” approach and as one of my guest bloggers pointed out recently; “Male modesty doesn’t pay”.

But why should women settle for less now that they are increasingly holding the purse strings? Experts  in the USA think that by 2024 women will be earning more on average than men , particularly in Law, Medicine, and in academia.

There are already more females than males graduating and higher education is the best predictor of future financial success. And the trend is pretty much the same in the UK with more females than males graduating in Law and Psychology for example.

In America five years ago only 1 in 4  women in dual-income households earned more than the men; now it is up to a third and if that trend continues more women in middle-income jobs like teaching and healthcare will overtake men.

In America female graduates have flocked into cities such as New York and Dallas to find “gender-blind” jobs with the result that women in their 20s are now earning 20% more than their male counterparts.

A number of factors have influenced these trends: a sharp decline in the birth rate in cities where more women go to college, more men losing their jobs than women (women occupied more part-time jobs) in the recession (the “mancession“), and an increase in family-friendly – which usually means women-friendly – jobs.  And you could probably add to that the feminising of education.

So what do you think? Will women today settle for second best?


Look after the pennies …

… and the pounds will look after themselves. At least that’s what your mother probably told you.

Now research shows why most of us aren’t getting rich – because we just don’t seem to care about them and lose them!

According to Gregory Wood of California State University, Channel Islands, two out of three US pennies (1 cent coins) get lost and are never seen again by the banks.

The same applies to Euro cents where just under half (45%) disappear.

People carry 14 coins on them on average and he thinks most of the ones we lose get dumped in household garbage. American households have 45% more solid waste than European ones which he thinks accounts for the difference.

It’s hard to find the figure for the UK but the Royal Mint says there were 28 billion coins in circulation in March 2008 and that they had issued nearly 380 million 1 penny coins in 2005. At the time they were redesigning the  coin in 2007 they said that 6 billion penny coins had been lost without trace.

There are lots of suggestions about why we lose so many: we don’t value them  any more, people take them abroad and leave them, or put them in jars for a rainy day, but there are still a lot unaccounted for. So remember what your mother told you!


From Bombay to Burnley

Santander recently announced that the call centres set up in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) by building societies, which are now part of Santander, were all closed down on July 1 and since then all their call centres have been in the UK, in Glasgow, Leicester, and Liverpool.

This is in response to Santander consistently being rated the worst bank for customer service. It is now ranked second worst after Barclays (which still has one call centre in India).

Indian call centres are a source of frustration to UK callers. Sometimes you can’t understand the accent and their adoption of English names, presumably to make you believe you are speaking to someone in England, is farcical. Also as problems have become more complex scripted responses don’t work so well.

The reasons for returning to the UK may not be totally altruistic as labour turnover has increased amongst the graduates who work in Indian call centres and wage costs have risen. Competition from the Philippines has also reduced India’s market share which has grown significantly in recent years.

Santander weren’t the first to make this decision. A lancashire telecom company, New Call Telecom, earlier announced that they were setting up a call centre in Burnley rather than in Mumbai. They said that staff in lancashire were hard-working and loyal and customers preferred dealing with people in this country.

Some banks such as the RBS, including NatWest, have always had UK call centres. NatWest however seems determined to force people to use automatic paying-in machines. The branch in Burnley closed down two cashier positions over a weekend earlier this year and rebuilt the wall so you couldn’t tell they were ever there.

This means the queues are getting even longer yet they have staff walking around asking if you want to pay in automatically despite customer complaints that they want to deal with a person. And how annoying is it when, after you have actually got a cashier to deal with your task, they ask if there is anything else they can do for you?

I’ve suggested they might wash my car or carry my shopping but to no avail. Now if I said I wanted to buy an insurance policy or see a financial advisor I bet I’d get a cup of coffee!

And I found out today that Santander only does business banking with automatic paying-in. So give them credit for the call centres but not for their automation – which means fewer jobs in the long run.


Boob jobs attract staff

What can we offer you to renew your contract? Free language lessons? 5 weeks holiday? How about a free boob job?

A report in the New York Times described how nurses in the Czech Republic were offered such perks.

One nurse in the private sector who opted for the cosmetic surgery had breast enhancement and liposuction, worth over £3,000, which she would never have been able to afford on her €1,ooo a month salary – less than earned by a bus driver. … Read More

via SGandA on Management & Leadership edited with permission


Where would you have a better life?

If you want to know which country to live in to enjoy life more go to the OECD better life index.

They  have identified 11 key factors such as health, education, earnings, and sense of community.

You can decide how important these are to you. After I’d scored my choices and pushed the buttons it turned out Australia would be my ideal place to live, followed by the Nordic countries, with Turkey at the bottom of my list. The UK came 13th!

Australia is also top of the official OECD list followed by Canada and Sweden with the USA 7th and the UK not in the top 10 so my preferences seem to be shared by many people across the developed world.

Three quarters of Australians say they are satisfied with their lives and over 80% still expect to be satisfied in 5 years time with 85% reporting that they are in good health. They also trust their politicians (doesn’t mention bankers in the survey), 71% of women with school age children are working and relatively few people work extremely long hours. And the gap between low performing and high performing children is extremely small.

In other surveys Finland and Denmark have featured as the best countries to live in for various reasons and France the most miserable.

Denmark has also come out top of countries in the OECD for the best work-life balance (WLB).


Aid to African despots – why?

G550Charities often say they get more contributions from working class ie poorer sections of the community than the middle or upper classes. (OK, there are exceptions like Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.)

And now that seems to apply to the UK as well. We’re in the s**t economically yet we strive to take the lead on overseas development. No wonder it’s causing a stink when we can’t afford to fund hospitals, schools or care for the elderly in our own country.

And some countries eg India, don’t even want our help let alone need it. India, like other BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia and China), is booming and can afford to have a large army, run a space programme, and be a nuclear power. That it doesn’t spend its money on improving basic living conditions for the 25% of its population living below the poverty line merely reflects badly on a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy.

A lot of people refuse to give money to charities in Africa because they wonder how much aid actually gets through with all the corruption and inefficiency (and Bob Geldof can shove his “ignore the corruption thing”. Why should we? I don’t begrudge him the plaudits he got for Band Aid but since then he’s enjoyed the high life on the back of it – well it wasn’t his crap music was it – and no-one likes to feel they’ve been ripped off).

Stories of NGO staff riding around in expensive 4 wheel-drive vehicles, dictators buying top of the range bullet proof Mercs eg Zimbabwe (68% of population living below poverty line), Malawi which bought 39 S-class Mercedes (53%), and Swaziland which bought a fleet of BMWs for the King’s wives plus a £1/4M Maybach 62 for him (69%), don’t help.

And the latest news is that we gave Uganda £70M in aid and the President went out and spent £30M on a top of the range private jet – a Gulfstream G550. So is it any wonder that I don’t want to contribute to paying for some despot’s Mercedes or gold-plated Kalshnikovs.

Providing vaccination, largely courtesy of Bill Gates, is definitely better than giving money. Providing countries with the technology and skills to feed themselves would be even better and birth control to reduce the number of hungry mouths needing to be fed would help enormously.  

Jonathan Clayton’s commentary in The Times today (05/07/11) is spot on. He writes about Kenya being listed as one of the countries supposedly facing the worst food crisis of the century.

This he reminds us is the destination of choice for the rich and the royal with its capital Nairobi booming and full of 5 star restaurants.

And a country which makes millions exporting fresh flowers, which need a lot of water, and vegetables to the UK.

In short a country that can afford to feed its poor but doesn’t want to.  And why would you if the UN – paid for by western taxpayers –  and other aid workers and charities do it for you?

In this case it isn’t necessarily dictators and despots but lack of political will and pure commercial considerations, albeit influenced by tribal loyalties.

Updated 4 November 2011: November’s Management Today magazine lists the worst countries for corruption.

Here they are in order of their Trust Index Scores

  1. Somalia
  2. Afghanistan & Myanmar
  3. Iraq
  4. Sudan, Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan
  5. Chad
  6. Burundi
  7. Angola & Equatorial Guinea
  8. DR of Congo, Guinea, Kyrgystan, & Venezuela
  9. Cambodia, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo-Brazaville, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Tajikistan
Source: Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2010: