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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Mums, boost your children’s skills for life!

s1030648_2Just 30 minutes a day is enough to influence your child’s intelligence and social skills.

Scientists studied 8,000 children over 16 years using data from the Millennium Cohort Study. They found:

  • Those whose mothers concentrated on educational tasks such as helping with homework or reading books grew up to have better cognitive abilities.
  • Those whose mothers focussed on recreational activities such as singing or painting, had better social skills.

Of course this doesn’t prove that it’s the voters involvement that dos the trick. Sociable mothers are more likely to play with their children and are also more likely to produce sociable ones. Separating genetic influences from environmental ones is the old nature/nurture dilemma.

Nevertheless the researchers think parents should take note. Marco Francesconi from the University of Essex thinks “just half an hour is enough to make a difference.  While children who spend more time doing educational activities will go on to do better in university and in the workplace, children who spend time doing recreational activities are les aggressive and integrate better into groups”.

He thinks that simply giving people attention could combat inequalities. Children with mothers without university degrees are more likely to do badly in school. “Our study shows that if the mother with no education spends a lot of time doing educational activities with her child, she can make up half the difference


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Dogs smarter than cats?

So dogs have got bigger brains than cats. And scientists say that’s because they socialise more.

Dogs are well known to be social pack animals, which is why owners have to be the alpha dog to keep the them from wrecking the house and chewing your shoes. Cats on the other hand are considered more aloof – doing you a favour coming home at night and that kind of approach.

Now scientists say that cats have paid the price for being aloof and have lost ground to dogs in terms of brainpower because of it. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they charted the evolution of the brain for over 500 species, living and fossilised, over the course of 60 million years. They found that the groups of mammals with relatively bigger brains tended to live in stable social groups.

The brains that grew most over this time  were monkeys, followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs. The brains of more solitary animals like cats, deer, and rhinos, grew much more slowly. It appears that interaction is good for the brain which is probably why humans, who are the more social than monkeys and apes, have dominated the planet. Cooperation and coordination requires more brainpower so brains have evolved to cope with those challenges.

Not everyone agrees. The dog supporters say that cats do what they want whereas dogs think about how they can get other people to do it for them and can build relationships with different species. Cat supporters say cats choose to live alongside man to exploit the rodent population while still enjoying their independence.

Truly the world can be divided into dog people and cat people. And where do well-known social creatures like ants and bees fit into this? Not to mention pigeons!


More (real) school friends = more earning power (maybe)

Did you know that the more friends a child has at school, the more they will probably earn later in life?

A study by Essex University published last year shows that for each extra friend a pupil had at school, their salary 35 years later was 2% higher.

The research adds to growing evidence that social skills – and not simply how well you did at school or university – are vital to success later on in life.

Professor Steve Pudney, of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, who carried out the research, said; “A workplace is a social setting. People have to manage each other and work in teams – you can see why social skills would be helpful”.

He used data from America in which groups of schoolboys were asked to name their three closest friends. The number of nominations received by each pupil was added up. The boys were then interviewed at regular intervals for almost 50 years to measure their earnings and see how they related to the number of friends people had.

Other factors such as intelligence and family income were also taken into account and Pudney accepts that intelligence and length of education have more impact on earning power than social skills (and don’t forget height is important too).

Previous research has shown that each extra year of education later raises earnings by 5%. And other research on the effects on children of poverty and abuse, family  income and education, shows how long-term health is influenced by childhood experiences.