Categories
learning

Do certain mental disorders put people more at risk of being radicalised?

3266_1

by Dr Clare Allely

 

Last year, the Chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy highlighted that many extremists are vulnerable individuals who are radicalised within weeks. Mental health issues have been identified as a potential part of the path to radicalisation (O’Neill & Simpson, 2015). Although this is debatable as some research shows that mental health issues are not a key factor in the pathway to radicalisation. However, recognition of the potential for mental health issues to be part of the pathway and the research which supports this theory has led to the NHS now having a full-time staff which focused on serving the Prevent anti-extremism programme, which main aim is to identify radical behaviour. They have identified Asperger’s or Autism, serious learning difficulties and low self-esteem, among other conditions as a potential part of the path to radicalisation – specifically, the conditions which extremists are increasingly exploiting in individuals they target for recruiting and training (O’Neill & Simpson, 2015).  Prevent Duty was launched last year, which places a duty or mandate upon Health and other sectors to prevent radicalisation. Prevent Duty have published guidance for ‘specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ (HM Government, 2015).

According to the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-V), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are now characterised by 1) deficits in social communication and interaction, and 2) restricted repetitive behaviours, interests, and activities (RRBs).

There has been some recent media coverage of some cases of individuals with autism or Asperger’s syndrome being targeted and recruited by terrorists. Last year a Briton, Kazi Islam, 19, received an eight year jail sentence for training Harry Thomas, also 19, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to be a terrorist. Islam persuaded Harry Thomas, to try to buy materials for a pipe bomb and to attack soldiers with a knife or meat cleaver. Islam’s reported that his training with Thomas was motivated by Nicky Reilly who was another individual with Asperger’s syndrome, who was involved in a failed suicide bombing in Exeter.

However, research has shown that it is important to highlight that individuals’ with autism are no more likely to commit violent crime when compared to the general population (Ghaziuddin et al., 1991). Individuals with ASD are not at increased risk of offending has been found by more recent studies (e.g., Woodbury-Smith, Clare, Holland, and Kearns, 2006; Mouridsen, 2012). In fact, some studies have even suggested that individuals with ASD may actually be less likely to commit violent crime (Mouridsen, Rich, Isager, & Nedergaard, 2008) and that the large majority of individuals with ASD are law-abiding (Murrie et al., 2002; Woodbury-Smith et al., 2006). What some of these cases highlight is the need to protect vulnerable individuals from being targeted and recruited by terrorist groups.

Dr Zainab Al-Attar, a Senior Lecturer and Chartered/Registered Forensic Psychologist, University of Central Lancashire, also highlights that there is no empirical evidence to show that people on the autism spectrum are at increased risk of engaging in terrorist offences nor that autism is over-represented in terrorist offenders. Dr Al-Attar also highlights the role played by autistic special interests, fantasy, obsessionality, need for routine/predictability, social and communication difficulties, cognitive styles, local coherence, systemising, and sensory processing, in terrorism pathways and modus operandi (Al-Attar, 2016).

One recent case which provides some understanding as to the role played by autistic special interests is that of the Mark Alexander Harding (21) who was sentenced to 18 months probation for downloading copies of the terrorist magazines Inspire and Palestine which are created by the global terrorist group formerly headed by Osama bin Laden. Harding had posted 5,000 comments, some supporting the so-called Islamic State, on the internet forum 4Chan – an English-language imageboard website containing hundreds of threads about numerous subject matters. Additionally, police also found that he has amassed on his computer ‘a large number’ of images and audio material stored in two folders named ‘Islam’ and ‘Nasheed’. It was recognised that Harding had not been radicalised and his online persona was a by-product of his autism which caused him to develop obsessions over specific subjects. One argument that has been suggested is that Harding’s use of the internet forum was evidence that he was ‘acting out’ his angers and frustrations.

Radicalisation may be a broad facet and impact any type of case. There have also been some cases of individuals with Asperger’s syndrome who have become involved/radicalised in extreme right wing (XRW) terrorism. The case of Michael Piggin (18), who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, who pleaded guilty to creating numerous weaponry which included petrol bombs, pipe bombs and air rifles but denied planning to use it in attacks on his former school, a mosque and a cinema in Loughborough in the UK. Piggin was initially arrested for an offence in which he allegedly threatened two boys with a knife, but officers were horrified when they searched his home in Beaumont Road, Shelthorpe. Piggin In a Che Guevara notebook emblazoned with swastikas and the initials of the English Defence League (EDL), Piggin wrote about what the prosecution alleged were attack plans. Reports also states that Piggin had boasted at school about going on an EDL march in Leicester. The jury were also shown a video of the teenager spraying “No more mosques!” on the wall of a leisure centre. Another video shows him saying: “We are against the Muslim invasion of our country. If you are looking at us… we will kill you, yeah – we are willing to take arms to fight for this country” (Lowbridge, 2014).

It is important not to assume that autism is a risk factor for terrorism in the general population. However, when dealing with an individual with autism charged with terrorism, it is important to consider how autism may have acted as a contextual vulnerability, and to ensure justice, rehabilitation and management, are informed by an understanding of the individual’s autism (Al-Attar, 2016). Despite counter-terrorism receiving substantial levels of attention and recognition as well as financial resource, there has been much less interest in investigating the effectiveness of interventions which are preventative (Bhui, Warfa, & Jones, 2014).

 

References

Al-Attar, Z. (2016). Autism & Terrorism Links – Fact or Fiction? 15th International Conference on the Care and Treatment of Offenders with an Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability. National Autistic Society. 19-20th April 2016.

Bhui, K., Warfa, N., & Jones, E. (2014). Is violent radicalisation associated with poverty, migration, poor self-reported health and common mental disorders?. PloS one, 9(3), e90718.

Ghaziuddin, M., Tsai, L., & Ghaziuddin, N. (1991). Brief report: Violence in Asperger syndrome—A critique. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 21, 349–354.

HM Government (2015). Revised Prevent Duty Guidance: for England and Wales. Guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Can be accessed from this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445977/3799_Revised_Prevent_Duty_Guidance__England_Wales_V2-Interactive.pdf

Lowbridge, C. (2014). How did Michael Piggin become radicalised? BBC News. Can be accessed from this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-27328590

Mouridsen, S. E. (2012). Current status of research on autism spectrum disorders and offending. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 79-86.

Mouridsen, S. E., Rich, B., Isager, T., & Nedergaard, N. J. (2008). Pervasive developmental disorders and criminal behaviour. A case control study. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52, 196–205.

Murrie, C., & Warren, I. (2002). Asperger’s syndrome in forensic settings. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 1(1), 59–70.

O’Neill, S., & Simpson, J. (2015). Mental health link to extremism. The Times. Article can be accessed: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/crime/article4560532.ece

Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Clare, I. C. H., Holland, A. J., & Kearns, A. (2006). High functioning autistic spectrum disorders, offending and other law-breaking: findings from a community sample. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 17(1), 108-120.

 

 

 

 

Categories
brain and behaviour learning undergraduate work experience

Salford Research Team Win BPS Psychobiology Section Summer Internship 2015

The team of psychologists (Simon Cassidy, Rob Bendall, Lynne Marrow and Adam Galpin), based in the Directorate of Psychology and Public Health, will be working with student intern Sarah Lambert. Sarah has recently completed her second year on the BSc Psychology (Hons) programme and will be spending the summer working on a project investigating brain imaging and eye-movements as markers of cognitive style. Sarah will be posting here regularly to keep you up to date with her experiences as an intern.

 

#1 – The experiences of a Psych intern….

 

So the first day of my BPS Psychobiology Summer Internship arrived and I had no idea what to expect. To my utter relief I was not ordered to stand up and recount an in depth analysis of cognitive style and biological markers, whilst drafting a detailed sketch of the anatomy of the brain. Nor have I been sent to fetch cups of tea or deliver dry-cleaning. Thanks to the support and reassurance I’ve received from my supervisors, my apprehension has been overshadowed by excitement, and I am thoroughly enjoying my first week as an intern.

My highlights of the week so far include one-to-one training sessions with Rob Bendall on building cognitive experiments in E-Prime (its easy once you know how!), literature searching and a very very handy tutorial from Roy Vickers on how to get the best out of SOLAR.

I’ll be sure to post regular updates of my ongoing experiences and hopefully give you a glimpse of what it’s like taking the first steps into the exciting world of psychological research.

 

 

#2 – The experiences of a Psych intern….

 

 

So here’s where it gets really interesting! This week I’ve been introduced to the lab and the impressive experimental setup that Rob Bendall has created. My initial thought was “this looks incredibly complicated and very expensive – don’t touch ANYTHING”. And a complex system it is. Simultaneously gathering data from eye-tracking, fNIRS brain imaging and E-Prime software, the set-up relies on an extraordinary amount of technology to ensure the experiment runs smoothly. The test data extracted during training sessions, although not relevant to the study, personally makes for interesting viewing.The very fact that internal processes can be converted into visual representations still amazes me.

pic

 

Additional tasks this week have included finalising posters and information sheets in preparation for recruitment and drawing up the first draft of the abstract. This has been an education in itself. It’s surprisingly difficult to prepare an abstract without any preliminary data, but I am assured that if I pursue a career in psychological research that this will not be the first and last time I’m in this predicament!

 

With the help of my co-researchers and some very patient guinea pigs I’ve managed to (almost) master the experimental procedure and I’m keen to get this show on the road. We finally have confirmation of ethical approval and so recruitment can start in earnest. Next stop data collection…………… Look out for posters around the psychology Directorate if you want more information on the study of would like to participate.

 

#3 – The experiences of a Psych intern

 

Only three weeks in to the project my position as an intern has taught me more than I ever could have imagined. I began my journey excited at the prospect that this experience was going to be fantastic opportunity to learn more about the mechanics of a research project. On reflection, my initial focus was how lucky I was to have one-to-one training on the lab equipment, and I was eager to learn more about brain imaging and eye-tracking. I didn’t realise that it would offer me something much more valuable – the chance to glimpse into the future and define my own career aspirations. From literature searching, data collection, writing, planning and networking – I’m thoroughly enjoying the variety of my role.

 

kkk

 

 

There is now no doubt in my mind that my future will be solidly grounded in research. Hopefully this blog will give me the platform to not only share my experience, but to show students the opportunities that are out there for us all.

 

As a student you are forever told to go out and get some work experience or engage in voluntary work “because it will look fantastic on your C.V. “. Of course it will give you the edge, but there is a more important and more pressing reason that you should consider stepping out of your comfort zone and gaining some work experience. Your journey through higher education and ultimately the career path you subsequently follow is determined by decisions you make – equip yourself the best way you can by learning what it is that you actually enjoy. Work experience is more than gaining an advantage over other graduates – it’s an opportunity to discover your own strengths and find the career path that is right for YOU. Whether your interests lie in psychological research, mental health, counseling or the criminal mind, there are opportunities to suit everybody. You just have to find them.

 

#4 – Experiences of a Psych intern…

 

Data collection is well underway and I’m beginning to get a real taste of what a career in research would entail.

 

...

My schedule is getting progressively busier as data collection, data analysis and poster preparation are all in progress, and my organisational skills are truly being put to the test. The process of data collection has been a rewarding, informative and at times even a frustrating experience. I get a certain satisfaction from each and every successful appointment, knowing that the success of the project hinges on gathering reliable data. I can’t help but take it personally when equipment failures interfere with my quest to collect useable data! These technical hitches (although maddening) are part and parcel of the experimental process – particularly when working with a very technologically heavy set-up. However, I’ve found that looking forward, I am no longer fazed at the prospect of conducting future experiments. The knowledge I have gained has given me the confidence in my own troubleshooting abilities and provided me with an incredibly valuable experience. Preliminary data screening also began this week, with training sessions on how to extract the useful data and filter out what we don’t need. As a novice this allows me to observe how the data may be mentally analysed and applied to the topic as the project goes on. For instance, whilst ‘sense’ checking the eye-tracking data Adam Galpin explained how reading the raw data and ‘sense’ checking not only helps avoid errors occurring, but can reveal interesting details about the nature of the information contained in the output. This initial analysis provides a clue as to what variables may be of interest and indicates the direction that analysis may take. These regular meetings with the team allow me to witness the thought processes of the researchers and see how decisions and conclusions are made. This has undoubtedly been the most valuable aspect of my internship. It is here that the true value of my position as an intern becomes glaringly obvious. The beauty of collaborative work is that each contributor brings their owns strengths to the table. I’m extremely lucky to be seated at that table and have the combined knowledge of four researchers as an available resource.

 

 

#5 – The experiences of a Psych intern….

 

 

Focus has now shifted onto extracting, converting and analysing data. All the work of the previous four weeks is culminated into these masses of figures on a spreadsheet. I am still amazed at how individual disposition and behavioural responses can be converted into visible and usable statistics. This is where we discover the direction the analysis will take. In reality, the process of analysis is somewhat different to what is taught during research methods lectures and seminars. I was unaware that the preparation, screening and filtering of data was quite so complex and time-consuming. To give you an indication of the magnitude of this task, for this project the extraction of the eye-tracking data first requires all short fixations to be manually removed, saccade (eye-movement) length and direction need to be calculated, and the position and type and of eye-movement deciphered. This process needs to be completed for each and every experimental trial before we can even begin to extract any meaningful data. So in short, if there are 30 participants and 20 experimental trials…..that means this procedure must be repeated 600 times! Only then can the actual analysis begin.

 

week5

As you can imagine, I’m becoming quite the excel expert!

In addition to extracting eye-tracking data, this week work has started on filtering and analysing the fNIRS brain imaging output. I can’t help but be slightly amused by Rob’s catchphrase of “this is how I do it, but you’ll find your own way”. This is usually the point when I come to the realisation that I am responsible for doing this task on my own. As daunting as this is I am given all the tools and guidance I need, and again, this is where my confidence in my own abilities is beginning to grow. Once I have nailed the actual process I find that it is much easier to understand the concept of the analysis. You see, it’s not just the actual process of hitting the right buttons and learning what goes where, but grasping the theory of why. This is precisely what psych research is about –interpreting the results, identifying possible variables of interest and the application of this information. Thanks to the descriptive manner of the research team not only am I gaining the knowledge of how to conduct ‘real life’ statistical analysis, but I’m quickly learning the theory behind the process.

 

#6 – The experiences of a Psych intern….

 

 

The research poster is finally complete and encompasses all the hard work of the previous few weeks. It’s enormously satisfying to view the finished product and certainly a very proud moment to see my name amongst the other researchers – proof that I have indeed contributed to the composition of the project! The very fact that there have been four other contributors that have been readily available for advice and feedback gives me secure confidence in the content and presentation of the poster. However, although this is reassuring, I must admit that the most stressful element of the entire internship has been my own determination to meet the expectations of the other researchers! All that remains is to present the research poster at the BPS Annual Psychobiology Section Scientific Meeting next week – rest assured, I will let you know how I get on.

Through my time here, I have come to the conclusion that psychological research is often misconstrued and the fear of statistics or the dreaded SPSS tends to put many undergraduate students off pursuing a research career. In truth, statistics only play a small role in a research project – a small role but essential role nonetheless. The basis of any research project is the theoretical reasoning and formation of the research question – stats simply provide you with your indicative result. As a novice you don’t need to be able to recite the ANOVA formula or navigate seamlessly through the SPSS program. You don’t even need to like statistics! What is important however is being able to understand the output, how it applies to your research question and what this means in real life terms.

So my internship has officially come to an end…but they won’t get rid of me that easily. I’ve enjoyed my time here so much and I’m gaining so much knowledge that I’m continuing to work on the project along with the current research team. The opportunity to learn is still very much accessible and I am very thankful that I am still made to feel so welcome. I’m very aware of just how fortunate I have been to have not only have been awarded the BPS psychobiology section internship, but to have such positive and engaging role models as mentors. My time here within the research department has been an educational experience, offering me the chance to expand my knowledge and gain a real taste of the research environment. I’m immensely grateful to the research team (Simon Cassidy, Rob Bendall, Adam Galpin and Lynne Marrow) for finding the perfect balance between supervision, issuing responsibility and allowing me to follow my own initiative. This is undoubtedly what has made this journey such an enriching experience. I must also give a special mention to the rest of the Psychology and Public Health department. It has been an absolute pleasure to work within such a welcoming and sociable environment. Surrounded by the discussion of current projects and exchanging of ideas, my dedication to pursuing a research career has only been reinforced by witnessing the sheer passion and apparent enthusiasm of the entire department. Thank you!

 

#7 – The experiences of a Psych intern….

 

 

A prerequisite of the internship award was that I must attend the Annual BPS Psychobiology Section Annual Scientific meeting and present the findings of the project in the form of a research poster. Although I was eager to stand beside the poster that was a single representation of all the hard work of the previous three months, I do not mind admitting that I did have reservations over my ability to deliver an engaging and coherent account of the research study. Understandably, my apprehension was centered around the potential questioning that may be directed my way. What if I don’t know the answer to a question? Or maybe I wouldn’t even understand the question! My initial fears were quashed once I arrived at the venue, finally found a prominent spot to display my poster and became acquainted with the other attendees. Realistically, after spending a good twelve weeks immersing myself in the research project I found I could find a confident response to any questions fired at me. That being said, all questions were delivered in a positive manner, and were based on genuine interest in the methodology and results of the study. Trust me when I say – nobody is there to publicly humiliate you! It was fantastic to receive such positive feedback and personally a really rewarding experience. I must admit once the poster session was finished (and I’d survived!), it was nice to be able to circulate and discover the varied journeys that had led researchers to the paths they had chosen. It was a great opportunity to steal some valuable hints and tips! The Psychobiology Scientific conference offered a perfect relaxed and friendly introduction into the psychresearch domain, and is one that I look forward to attending again next year. I’d strongly urge others tojoin the BPS and make use of these external events to learn, connect, and above all, build their own confidence.

 

SL

 

Sarah Lambert with Dr Richard Stephens

(Chair of the BPS Psychobiology Section)

s.lambert1@edu.salford.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
@salfordpsych Blog career prizes relationships summer volunteering work experience

Summer Internship: Read about Hanna’s US adventure!

Our very own Hannah Arhinful has won an International Travel bursary and will be keeping us up to date on her Summer Internship!

Hannah will be spending the summer in Boston, and will be posting regularly to keep us up to date with her US adventure.

Follow Hannah’s updates and get inspired here.

For more information on the International Travel Bursaries see here: http://www.careers.salford.ac.uk/funded_opportunity

 

 

Why are internships important? Read some of the reasons why it is important to make time for internships here http://www.whatispsychology.biz/internships-psychology-degree-programs

 

 

Categories
@salfordpsych applied psychology community community psychology conferences

John Hudson wins the 2015 BPS poster competition

Our very own John Hudson, PhD student under the supervision of Dr Ashley Weinberg has won the poster competition at the Annual Conference of the BPS!

His poster looked at factors connected to job-related stress in the public sector. You can find his poster here.

john

Congratulations John!

 

Follow John on Twitter: @brucierooster

Categories
@salfordpsych applied psychology Blog engaging people media media psychology political psychology reflection

The age of celebrity politics

In an article published in the latest edition of The Psychologist magazine, I explore the contribution Psychology can give to understanding the phenomenon of celebritisation of politics.

http://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-28/may-2015/age-celebrity-politics

 

Categories
Blog mental health psychology research writing

Health blogging – new research about impact of writing style

By Dr Sarah Norgate

 

Ever since blogs arrived on the scene – so, well over two decades ago now – researchers have looked at the extent of benefits of blogging for wellbeing, psychosocial gain and business growth. In the health sector, practitioners and campaigners are increasingly exploring whether health blogging serves as a potential tool for motivating people to make lifestyle changes to prevent onset of health problems.

A new discovery out this year from Carmen Stavrositu (University of Colorado) and Jinhee Kim (Pohang University of Science and Technology)1 shows that the type of narrative used in a blog posting makes a difference to people’s behavioural intentions and perceived vulnerability to health risks.

 

The team set up a blog post called ‘My battle with skin cancer’, and manipulated blog posts to be either ‘transporting narratives’ or ‘non-narratives’. In the transporting version of the blog-post, the reader was immersed in the journey saying what lifestyle changes they would have done differently if they had known better. In the ‘non-narrative’ version the blog remained non-personal and factual. In addition, the researchers also manipulated reader response posts to the blog as being either appreciative for the advice (thanks for the tips, and for sharing) or discounting the advice (have you not heard that….).

After reading the blog, readers of the ‘transported’ narrative were more likely to say they would change their lifestyle – to wear sunscreen regularly or to seek out further information on skin cancer prevention. Compared with before reading the blog, readers perceived themselves as no less vulnerable than others to experiencing negative health outcomes. However, once the reader’s negative/positive comments were taken into account, the picture was more complex. Having the appreciative comments on the blog actually increased the chance that readers thought they were no less vulnerable than others.

The potential role of health blogging interventions raises questions about the reliance on traditional didactic approaches on online information sites.

Onwards then…. towards a new generation of evidence based online health interventions. But in doing this, let’s not forget the voice of the citizen or consumer.

Now then, as this first ever blog has been written more in ‘non-transporting’ mode I decided to make this last sentence more personal. Just to say thanks to other blog writers and social media species who inspired this.

Carmen D. Stavrositu & Jinhee Kim (2015) All Blogs Are Not Created Equal: The Role ofNarrative Formats and User-Generated Comments in Health Prevention, Health Communication, 30:5, 485-495, DOI:

10.1080/10410236.2013.867296

 

 

Categories
Hong Kong media media psychology online technology

The end of TV? Broadcast crisis in HK

By Stephanie Szeto @stepszeto

 

There are only two free-to-air terrestrial television stations, Television Broadcasts (TVB) and Asia Television (ATV), in Hong Kong.  Owing to the financial crisis in past quarters, the ATV has been struggling with fund raising endeavour, in coping with consecutive financial loss and failure to pay salaries of hundreds of employees.  The posts on Facebook could tell that Hongkongers attributed ATV’s failure to their outdated drama genre and mismanagement. Media commentaries presented that their management should take the responsibility because the crisis originated from the internal organisational issue (Jin, Liu, & Austin, 2014).  Some people expressed views on posts that demanded ATV to give up their fight and the government should order ATV to surrender its free-to-air TV license to the Hong Kong Television Networks (HKTV, mentioned in the previous article).  As Lee (2004) found that Hong Kong audiences’ reactions to public media crises has become emotional and may explain the negative and less sympathetic comments of Hongkongers’ harsh reaction to the fall of ATV.

 

Some Hongkongers, alternatively, attributed the downfall of ATV to its fierce competitor, TVB which was assumed to monopolise the TV industry.  However, as Atkins (2010) mentioned that the impact of crisis is not limited to one organisation, TVB was also suffering from the decline of TV industry, despite reaching its peak in the 90s.  Today, the 24/7 access online providing abundant supply of entertainment, such as YouTube and iTunes, is the main culprit for downfall of TV industry.  During the dispute over free-to-air TV licence to HKTV, Mark Lee Po-on, TVB’s General Manager, claimed that there was not enough advertising revenue to support newcomer to the TV media market.  It may be the reason why there were internet rumours about reciprocal relation between TVB and the government that TVB delivered pro-government perspective to the audience and the government denied to issue a free-to-air TV licence to HKTV.

 

While people continue to discuss online about this evolving media crisis in Hong Kong, we will wait and see if there is any relationship of the ongoing situation with the heated debate of the 2017 political reform of the Hong Kong SAR which has been a focus of attention from a number of international media. One is sure that social media will be something we may continue to watch on.

 

 

 

Categories
@salfordpsych applied psychology brain and behaviour community engaging people Hong Kong media mental health online OUHK political psychology technology

New media and new perspectives on the crisis in Hong Kong

by Stephanie Szeto (@StepSzeto)

Stephanie Szeto

 

 

 

 

 

The high penetration of the new mobile technology and social media enables some Hongkongers, who don’t have much prior knowledge of computer, to access internet media and enjoy spontaneous mobile mass communication, such as Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.   In past few decades, only few TV media existed in Hong Kong. Television Broadcasts (TVB) is completely monopolising the media market as Asia Television (ATV) produces limited domestic programmes and is facing major financial problem that has to terminate some news broadcasts.  People are now used to read news from wide variety sources for having different perspectives, for example independent press, rather than from the traditional mass media, such as the two existing free-to-air terrestrial television stations, (TVB) and (ATV). Young people are more accessible and develop critical views to various news angles and discover nested interests of different media stakeholders may affect the political stands or economic positions of various commentaries or social media blogs.

 

In last October 2013, tens of thousands of protesters marched to the government headquarters of the Hong Kong SAR claiming the violated Hong Kong’s core values of freedom as the monopolisation of existing TV public media eventually led to rejection from the government in issuing an additional free-to-air TV licence to the Hong Kong Television Networks (HKTV).  The march originated from a social action organised with the help of a Facebook page claiming to gather ten thousand of HKTV supporters and simultaneously gained nearly five hundred thousand LIKES.  Facebook has become a powerful social media to magnify the tearful speeches of HKTV staff and celebrities that were spreading quickly on the web which explained the underlying nested interests of politicians in rejecting the license application.  Protesters claiming that, despite a 85% of respondents in a public survey conducted by The University of Hong Kong indicated more free-to-air TV choices, the government turned down HKTV’s application as a result of politically decision.  Mr. Ricky Wong Wai-kay, the boss of HKTV, presented that he would create a station that will truly belong to Hongkongers by giving alternative choice, such as ‘dark’ comedy and drama, which allows different political satire may capture the popular sentiment.  Therefore, Hongkongers believed that the government was crushing the city’s core values of freedom and vowed to have social movement against the media monopolisation.  Wong questioned whether Hong Kong was still governed by the rule of law and the HKTV, in the end, resorted to broadcast by over-the-top online platform.

 

With more easy access to online platforms, Hongkongers are now relying less on traditional TV news as they believe it offers more pro-government perspective to the audience.  On the other hand, posts of independent press and internet radio have acquired a higher share of media influence.  This situation is confirmed by the findings of crisis communication research that some people give higher level of credibility to new media than to traditional media in terms of having different perspective of the crisis (Jin, Liu, & Austin, 2014). One would see the new media has become a real battle ground for people to exert their political influence and gaining publicity through the emerging mobile technology.

Categories
@salfordpsych applied psychology Blog learning self belief

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

 

Written by:  Dr Simon Cassidy, 13th March 2015Simon Cassidy

 

 

 

 

The quote in the title (and variations of it) is attributed to Henry Ford, the prolific American pioneer, leader and industrialist. And he could be right according to initial findings of a study conducted here at the University of Salford examining psychological resilience, also referred to as emotional or psychosocial resilience. What the quote suggests is that people’s beliefs about their abilities determine their chances of completing a task successfully (or not).  We—psychologists I mean—refer to these beliefs about ability as self-efficacy. You could call it confidence but that would be too easy for us scientists. In actual fact calling it confidence would be an oversimplification and a little inaccurate. Self-efficacy emerged in the 1970s as a central construct in Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (subsequently Social Cognitive Theory); he defines it as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the course of action required to manage prospective situations”. Studies of self-efficacy have been pretty consistent in finding that it is associated with, and in some cases, predictive of, positive outcomes and performance. So our judgements and beliefs about our capabilities are important in real terms. It seems that judging yourself to be capable of success increases your chances of actual success, while judging yourself as not capable of success reduces your chances of actual success. Henry was right!

 

This raises the question of what exactly is it that people who believe that they are capable of success do? We know in general terms that self-efficacious (big unwieldy term I know, but hey I’m a scientist) individuals are more persistent and more motivated, but what we are less clear on is the specific actions that individuals with positive self-efficacy beliefs take that makes them more likely to succeed. Not knowing this makes it difficult to exploit the potential advantages of positive self-efficacy.

 

We know from Bandura that self-efficacy is particularly important when individuals face adversity. Adversity can be defined as difficult, challenging or unpleasant events, situations or circumstances. Faced with adversity, some people have the capacity to bounce back from failure, to beat the odds and do better than might be expected given the circumstances. These people are considered to be resilient and resiliency is considered an asset because of its obvious benefits. One way to explore the specific behaviours associated with self-efficacy is to investigate how it relates to resilience and resilient (or adaptive) responses. Looking at how individuals respond when faced with adversity and how these behaviours are connected to self-efficacy may give us some insight into why self-efficacious (there’s that term again) individuals are more likely to succeed and may help us develop interventions aimed at building resilience.

 

Both self-efficacy and resilience make most sense when studied and measured in specific contexts – it’s difficult to accept that someone has the same belief in their capabilities or responds to adversity in the same way irrespective whether we are talking about relationships, bereavement, learning or health. Because of this and because understanding issues of student achievement and wellbeing is a priority for those of us working in the field of psychology and education, my study focussed on academic self-efficacy and academic resilience in students. Once students’ academic self-efficacy had been measured, they were presented with a case study describing academic adversity and failure and asked to select, from a list of potential behaviours, how they would respond. A second version of the case study described a fellow student who was facing the same academic adversity and students were now asked to select, from the same list, how their colleague should respond.

 

OK, what did the study find? Well initial results were presented at the BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology Annual Conference in Durham in January, although detailed analysis is still underway. So far findings show that academic self-efficacy is a strong predictor of academic resilience. Positive self-efficacy beliefs predict increased resilience in students when faced with academic adversity. This finding is important but was anticipated, so no surprises there. What is valuable is that the study measured resilience by asking students to select specific responses to adversity that were either more or less resilient and compared the responses of low and high self-efficacy students.  Further analysis of this will provide, I hope, some of the details we are missing about how students who believe in their academic capability behave in different ways to those students who doubt their capability. When responses to personal adversity and adversity faced by a fellow student were compared, students showed greater resilience for their colleague. That is, students selected more resilient responses for colleagues than they did for themselves. This is an important finding for two reasons. Firstly it suggests that students are aware of what are the most adaptive responses to academic adversity, but don’t necessarily select them. Secondly, students are likely to be a good source of resilience for colleagues who are facing challenging situations, which is encouraging for peer assisted learning and mentoring schemes.

 

What I’m working on at the moment is extracting the detailed information about differences in specific responses to adversity of believers and non-believers (in the self-efficacy sense). The goal is to use this as a device to instil greater resilience in students. It’s tough out there and applying our knowledge and skills as psychologists can help. For now though the message is clear “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

 

That should have been the end of the piece but as I’m writing about resilience I couldn’t resist adding another of Henry Ford’s quotes (and in doing so ruining the dramatic end to the post): “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”. I think the quote captures a lot of what there is to capture about resilience. Thank you Henry for your contribution to psychology and to this post.

 

 

Categories
learning

Comment – The Many Labs Project and the importance of replication in Social Psychology

 

The current issue of the BPS’s Psychologist magazine features an article on the Many Labs project (in press manuscript can be found here  https://openscienceframework.org/project/WX7Ck/files/ManyLabsManuscript.pdf/).

As Honorary Secretary of the Social Psychology Section of the BPS, I have been asked to provide a comment on this initiative.

Below is a more elaborate version of my comments.

There are at least two ways to assess the strength and solidity of an effect: one is performing a meta-analysis (i.e. statistically combine the results of a series of studies which included the effect of interest), the second experimentally reproducing the study and see if the same effect appears in the new sample. The present study attempted a large scale replication of some very popular effects in social psychology.
Replication is at the basis of scientific progress: the fact that we find a certain effect in a certain study does not mean the effect is present in general, it could be an oddity of the sample or it could be linked to the specific conditions in which the study was run.

Over a meta-analytical work, the project reported has the advantage of guaranteeing that standardised procedures were adopted in each replica-experiment, though it meant that at times the design had to be necessarily over-simplified. It also has the advantage of getting around the ‘file drawer effect’, that is, the fact that most studies who fail to replicate an effect do not get published, and are therefore difficult to retrieve for meta-analytic purposes.

This ambitious project shows the importance of having a scientific community which engages in collaborative research and joins forces and resources in the common pursue of knowledge. Not only, but the transparency with which the data, their origin and their analysis are shared with the public are commendable and should set the standard for future work.
Indeed, no study is perfect, and also this project has margins of improvement, but it provides some solid ground to build upon.

Some possible areas of improvement are:

– Over-simplification: the effects which are successfully replicated are very basic

– Context in/dependence: the two studies which failed to replicate might be more linked to contextual factors (e.g. the lack of support for the flag-effect could be due to the ‘Obama effect’ in US and to the fact that the political discourse in general has changed it focus since the time in which the experiment was run; as for the currency, the recent economic downturn might have negatively impacted the link between money and system justification). This does not mean that the effect does not exist: it could exist under certain circumstances.

– Westernisation: of the 36 samples, only three were non-western (Turkey, Malaysia and Brazil) and three from Eastern Europe (Two in the Czech Republic and one in Poland), thus there are still issues to be addressed re: applicability of findings outside western world

– For the study including the IAT:  being based on a contrast score we cannot tell whether the difference observed is due to a worse evaluation of maths or a better evaluation of arts which drives the results, so I am particularly unconvinced of the solidity of the Gender differences in maths attitudes study