Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

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Generation mute missing out on real conversations

16-24 year olds are increasingly losing the ability to communicate face to face – or even on the phone. Telephone calls are now the 10th  most used function on a mobile phone. People who use their mobile phones for over 2 hours a day only spend 20 minutes actually speaking to someone on it.

Only 15% of them consider phone calls the most important method of communication compared to over twice that many who prefer instant messaging. In America 80% of millennials (born 1981-1997) felt more comfortable using text messaging rather than having a telephone conversation.

On the other hand 43% of adults over 24 years of age say phone calls are the most important means of contacting others, more than double the younger age groups.

Teenagers even prefer texting each other when with each other according to an Ofcom survey.

Ofcom said that respondents admitted to instant messaging, texting or e-mailing others even when they are in the same room. Just over quarter of adults did the same but the figures rose too 49% for teenagers.

Instant messaging services such as Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp are becoming more popular as wi-fi access becomes less of a problem as traditional texting is declining. Facebook Messenger claims to have reached 65% of the UK population via mobile phone and WhatsApp 47%.

When people are actually avoiding having a telephone conversation something is going wrong. But  the statistics show that time spent on phone calls in Britain reduced by 10% between 2011 and 2016.

Phil Reed, professor of psychology at Swansea University and an expert on internet addiction is concerned that the increased use of social media can lead to isolation and loneliness (a theme I have posted about regularly).

He says “Friendship involves reciprocity and empathy, which social media does not lend itself to. Talking we can interact, interject; we present ourselves relatively unedited”.

It seems young people are losing the art of conversation which is important in life. Not just socially but going for interviews and in adapting to new settings.


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Driving us mad

texting_behind_the_wheel_1600_wht_10007It may not come as any surprise to learn that there are people driving round in the UK with over 30 points on their driving licences (12 within 3 years being the normal number for a disqualification).

A women in London accumulated 42 points after failing to name the driver of her car for a series of traffic offences and a man from Warrington was given 36 points after he was caught without insurance six times in a month last year but still allowed to carry on driving!

These are just some of the examples uncovered by the Institute for Advanced Motorists after a freedom of information request. Apart from drivers allowed to keep their licences due to hardship others are juts forgotten about because of a lack of communication between computers at the Department of Justice and the DVLA. Well that’s OK then.

Some good news about tackling bad driving habits though as the Transport Secretary has ordered police to crack down on drivers using mobile phones as evidence mounts that the law is being flouted by millions of drivers. You’ve all seen them; lorry drivers driving their heavy loads with one hand and people driving round roundabouts chatting away on their phones. And not just chatting but texting as well (how do they do that?).

The numbers of fixed penalty notices has been dropping although the fine for using a mobile phone has just increased from £60 to £100. Perhaps they should confiscate and destroy the phone as well but it would probably be a breach of their “human rights” (to endanger other road users).

The Transport Secretary is meeting with the Association of Police Chief Officers (ACPO) in November to review how the new penalty system is being enforced. He says his department is considering getting tougher by doubling the penalty points to 6 and forcing young drivers to retake their test if caught using a phone during their first two years of driving.

He is also concerned about the number of accidents young drivers have (25% of the total) and may be proposing graduated licences where young drivers could be banned from late night driving or be restricted in the number of passengers they can carry. The Association of British Insurers claims that barring young drivers from driving between 2300 and 0400, restricting them to one passenger under the age of 20, and enforcing a zero drink-drive limit, would reduce premiums by 20%.

Parents are also concerned about their children driving. According to a survey by Direct Line insurance almost half of parents would welcome “black box” curbs on young drivers i.e. the installation of a mandatory GPS tracking device. Moreover 75% of parents believed that such measures are an acceptable way of reducing insurance premiums for their children (as they are probably paying for it for them) and almost the same proportion thought it would reduce danger for inexperienced drivers.

Insurance premiums have doubled in the last two years for drivers aged 17-22 to an average of £1,860 for males and £1,464 for females. Direct Line offers a 20% discount for drivers who have black boxes fitted (hence their interest in doing this research).

Do we get the customer service we deserve?

Over the years I have experienced some poor customer service – and not all of it in the former soviet republics (“service without a smile”). Some of the best has been in the USA – and not the “have a good day” or “missing you already” stuff, but the fact that even in a basic chain restaurant they will smile, wipe your table, and give you a jug of water, without having to be asked. Scandinavia is pretty good too.

But here in the UK it’s a mixed bag. Some coffee shops are good, in others the staff just talk to each other and ignore the customer. It’s the same in supermarkets with bored checkout staff who talk to their colleagues next to or behind them and who don’t even attempt eye contact once they’ve asked you if you need help packing your bag.

Yet research shows that waiters who touch you when giving you change get bigger tips; smiling will get a positive response 50% of the time depending on whether you are an extravert or an introvert; and remembering your name and your preferences is a good way to create loyalty.

So should it all be one-way? I went to collect a parcel from a depot recently and the first thing I saw was an A4 sized notice saying; “Customers conducting conversations on their mobile phones may find staff are unable to serve them until both parties have each other’s full attention”. Good for you I thought.

Apparently a regular customer would get out of her car and get on her mobile phone before coming to the reception desk and then carry on a running commentary with someone in the office – not just about what she was doing but what the other customers were doing as well!

We’ve all seen, or rather heard, mobile phone conversations carried on in public places with no regard for their intrusion into other people’s space. I have in the past asked people on trams to speak more quietly. It didn’t go down well but I didn’t really want to know what he had been doing with his girl-friend the previous night or what pizza toppings it led to!

People seem to be getting more egotistical or narcissistic, tweeting, texting, sexting and generally talking about themselves. And yes you could argue that bloggers like me are similar but you’re not forced to read this.

Updated 12 January 2010: Bad customer service is unforgivable says Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr. He thinks people are surly, and slapdash and it’s dreadful. “It’s not just in restaurants, you get bad service anywhere,” he says. “Even buying a newspaper you can find that you’re not even acknowledged. There’s no eye contact, no greeting or anything. Bad service is unforgivable and it’s everywhere in the UK.

He has a point. The UK came a disappointing 14th in the 2010 international customer service rankings from the Nation Brand Index and was ranked 13th for its “welcome” by visitors. Top is Canada, followed by Italy and Australia.

It doesn’t bode well for a country just months away from a royal wedding that’s expected to attract millions of visitors to the UK, followed by the Olympics next year. Even for Britons, poor customer service is a national bugbear, up there with the weather. See: “Why is service still so bad in the UK”