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

15 March 2016

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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.

 

 

 

 

What has really happened to Phineas Gage?

9 December 2015

 By Ivett Ayodele              

 

Myths and recent discoveries about Psychology’s most famous Case Study

 

A few  days ago I was reading the August issue of the BPS Digest and came across a piece by Christian Jarrett titled “What textbooks don’t tell you about psychology’s most famous case study” (See this article here.) I was surprised because as far as I was concerned, the story of Phineas Gage always sounded more like a myth to me. I was compelled to do some research on the new discoveries and here is my own summary about the real story of Phineas Gage.

If you are studying Psychology or have an interest in it, you have probably heard of the case of Phineas Gage. His story is remarkable and very popular among psychology students all over the world (Jarrett, 2015).

 

Who was Phineas Gage?

Phineas Gage was a railway worker in the 1800s. On the 13th September, 1848 he suffered a traumatic brain injury when an iron rod went through his entire skull, destroying a large section of his brain (Cherry, 2015). The fact, that he not only survived but was also able to speak and walk after the accident, made him one of the most famous patients in neuroscience (Jarrett, 2015).  However, according to Griggs (2015), most textbooks (at least the American ones) give a misleading account of his story.  In particular many suggest he had a dramatic change in character and personality.

“In this regard his mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was “no longer Gage”. (Harlow, 1868, p. 340)

 

The Myth

 Richard Griggs, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida, analysed the content of 23 textbooks and found that most of them had told the story of Phineas Gage inaccurately (Jarrett, 2015).

These textbooks will tell you that although Phineas Gage survived the accident, he became a changed man (Cherry, 2015), he never worked again or that he became a circus freak for the rest of his life, showing off the holes in his head (Jarrett, 2015). However, according to Griggs (2015), the most appalling error seems to be that Gage survived for 20 years with the tamping iron rod embedded in his head!

 

New Discoveries

Thanks to the work of Malcom Macmillan and Mathew L.  Lena, who carried out some historical analysis between 2000 and 2010 (e.g. see “Rehabilitating Phineas Gage”, 2010), it seems that in fact, Phineas Gage made a surprisingly good recovery. He ultimately emigrated to Chile and became a coach driver, controlling six horses and dealing politely with non-English speaking passengers (Jarrett, 2015). Furthermore, in 2008, some new photographic evidence emerged from Jack and Beverly Wilgus. They acquired the daguerreotype below, of which this is a photograph 30 years ago, but it was not identified as Phineas Gage until 2008. (Macmillan & Lena, 2010).

 

PG

Source: https://www.uakron.edu/gage/adaptation.dot

According to Macmillan and Lena (2010) two relatives of Phineas Gage also have copies of the photograph of a similar daguerreotype, which was passed down to the descendants of Phineas’ siblings. They therefore argue, that there is no doubt the image is of Phineas.

 

There is further evidence by Macmillan and Lena (2010) that suggests, that Phineas Gage not only recovered after his accident but also consistently sought to readapt to his circumstances.

  1. Phineas returned to work on his family farm just four month after his accident and sought his old job four months later.
  2. Two or three years later, he started lecturing and exhibiting himself, advertising and traveling independently, requiring him to re-learn any lost social skills.
  3. He worked as a Currier for a year (1851-1852) and he also learnt how to drive a coach during this period.
  4. He was reliable enough to be employed as a Coach driver in Chile, where he remained for about 7 years; using complex social and cognitive-motor skills which were required for this job.
  5. He was able to adapt to the language and custom of Chile, which was a foreign land for him.
  6. A doctor who knew him well in Chile stated that he saw “no impairment whatever” in him after a certain period of time.

In his late years, Phineas Gage began to suffer from ill health and decided to follow those members of his family, who had relocated to San Francisco, California. He eventually regained his health and worked as a farmer in Santa Clara. (Cherry, 2015).   However, he soon started to experience convulsions and became dissatisfied with his job, changing his employer frequently before deciding to return to his family in San Francisco. He died of a series of severe convulsions on the 21st May 1860 (Macmillan & Lena, 2010.)

 

Why is it important to set the record straight about Phineas Gage?

 

Well, according to Griggs (2015) there are one and half million students studying Psychology in the USA alone and they are introduced to the discipline via textbooks (Jarrett, 2015).

Therefore, “it is important to the psychological teaching community to identify inaccuracies in our textbooks so that they can be corrected, and we as textbook authors and teachers do not continue to “give away” false information about our discipline” (Griggs, 2015).

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would like to invite you to submit a piece of your own to our Blog! You can write about you experiences at Salford or if you read a good book, or see a good film you could write a review on that! For more information please contact me on i.b.ayodele@edu.salford.ac.uk.

 

References

 

Cherry, K. (2015, November 18). About Education. Retrieved from psychology.about.com: http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/phineas-gage.htm

Griggs, R. (2015). Coverage of the Phineas Gage Story in Introductory Psychology Textbooks: Was Gage No Longer Gage? Teaching of Psychology, 195-202.

Harlow, J. M. (1868). Recovery from the passage of an iron bar through the head. Publications of the Massachusetts Medical Society, 2, 327–347, [Facsimile in Macmillan, 2000,

Jarrett, C. (2015). What the textbooks don’t tell you about psychology’s most famous case study. BPS Digest, 626.

Macmillan, M., & Lena, M. L. (2010). Rehabilitating Phineas Gage. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 641-658.

 

 

Pavlov’s Ducks: an experiment in conditioning

9 December 2015

 

By Sophie Lavin

 

Abstract

This study investigated whether ducks can be trained, using the work of Pavlov and Skinner. It turned out ducks are not as stupid as they look.

 

Introduction

Ivan Pavlov’s work on the digestive system of dogs led him to Classical Conditioning. He predicted that a stimulus could become associated with food and cause salivation if a particular stimulus in the dog’s surroundings was present when the dog was given food. In his initial experiments, Pavlov presented a stimulus (rang a bell) and then gave the dog food; after a few repetitions, the dogs started to salivate in response to the stimulus.

BF Skinner was a behaviourist who considered free will an illusion and human action dependent on  the consequences of previous actions. If the response is bad, it is unlikely the action will be repeated; but if it is good, the action will become more probable. This is reinforcement, and making use of it is Operant Conditioning. Skinner called his pigeons ‘superstitious’ because, by feeding them using a machine that dispensed food at regular intervals no matter what the birds did, he noticed that they associated the food with whatever chance actions they were doing when it was delivered. The pigeons continued to perform the actions, hoping for more food.

This study set out to find out whether ducks are as clever as dogs or pigeons. They don’t seem it.

Hypothesis: that ducks can be trained to respond to the sound of a bell.

 

Method

Design

The study used direct observation in a rural laboratory setting.

 

Participants

Participants were an opportunity sample of five Indian Runner Ducklings of indeterminate sex[1]. They were introduced to the laboratory at two weeks old and at the time of the experiment they were 20 weeks old.

 

Materials

Ducks and a shed. A bell. Duck food. Probably a fox, too.

 

Procedure

For 18 weeks, every time food or water was provided for the participants, a bell was rung. Food was always provided in the shed. After 6 weeks the participants were allowed to play on the pond during the day but herded back into the shed at night, in case the fox introduced an extraneous variable. At 20 weeks the experimenter attempted to put the participants in the shed by ringing the bell.

 

Ethics

Participants were kept safe from the fox, fed and allowed to play on the pond.

 

Results

 

Table 1

Putting the Ducks Away.

 

Day bell herding required
Monday 1  
Tuesday 1  
Wednesday 1  
Thursday   1
Friday 1  
Saturday 1  

[1] It’s beginning to look like they are all male (no eggs)

 

Ducks put themselves into the shed upon hearing the bell six times out of seven (or 86%).

 

Discussion

The results showed that the participants were indeed smarter than they looked. They had been conditioned to run into the shed on the sound of the bell. On Thursday, the experimenter was stuck on a delayed train home from university, and the test was administered by an adolescent research assistant. This young helper rarely does any chores around the laboratory, and had never fed the ducks. Therefore the surprise result was that the participants appeared to have been subject to operant conditioning. They responded to the bell only when they believed that the bell might lead to being fed. They were not Pavlov’s Ducks, they were Skinner’s Superstitious Ducks.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on a second year assignment

16 November 2015

 

Dr Catherine Thompson

 

It is the time of year when all second year students are in the midst of their change blindness assignment for the modules ‘Further Biopsychology and Cognition’ and ‘Cognitive Psychology’. Having led the modules for a few years I have noticed that the majority of students go through a similar experience with the assignment and I can clearly see them progressing through a series of “interesting” phases. Here are my thoughts on the stages that most students go through when making their second year cognitive experiment (and incidentally, the stages that every researcher goes through when designing and setting up a computer-based experiment):

 

Enthusiasm – so I would generally say that most people start out with a certain level of enthusiasm. It is good to have free reign to design your own experiment and investigate something that interests you, rather than having to write about a data set that you have been given and have no ownership over. Yes it might be difficult to think of a good idea, but at least it is your idea.

 

Perseverance – this is not an easy assignment and there is a lot of work involved, particularly to keep up with the weekly tasks we complete (design the study, collect the materials, build the experiment….). Good to know that L809 and L810 are available after 5pm!

 

Realisation –who knew there were so many aspects to consider? It is not just choosing your variables, you have to make the stimuli, write your instructions, note down the correct answers, create a response screen (!), work with your group members…. and that’s before you even get to E-Prime (but it can’t be that difficult, can it?).

 

(Intense) Irritation – it happens to us all, when you use E-Prime to build an experiment it hardly ever works the first time. Either the computer can’t find an image file, or you haven’t put the correct answers in capital letters, or your pictures are too big for the screen…. the list goes on. So you find yourself in what seems to be a never-ending cycle of editing-testing-editing-testing, asking yourself “will it ever work??”

 

Moderation – this is the time for composure. Keep calm – it’s only a computer. Take a deep breath, go and have a break, then (unfortunately) carry on.

 

Elation – (aka “great happiness”) you may think this is a little over the top, but wait until you have experienced the moment when everything comes together and the experiment you designed is working perfectly for all to take part in. You are ready to collect your data and all the hard work was worth it.

Plus, when you come to collate your data and analyse the results you find out the benefits of E-Merge –being able to merge hundreds of responses into a single file and having all your data ready to input into SPSS with just a few mouse clicks.

 

I’m fairly sure that most of our current Level 6 students can remember building their E-Prime experiments for the cognition modules (and they all recall those days fondly!). The Level 5 students are going through it at the moment (hope you have reached the ‘Elation’ stage), and our Level 4 students have got this all to look forward to; exciting times ahead.

Designing your own computer-based experiment is difficult and at times it can be frustrating, but don’t forget the skills that you learn throughout the process – experimental design, knowledge of dependent and independent variables, ethical considerations, Photoshop, working in a group, and of course, mastering E-Prime. You might feel reluctant to complete another E-Prime experiment in the near future, but trust me, that feeling passes quickly (!).

Brain & Behaviour: The Children of 9/11

14 October 2015

By Alexandra Horsman

 

 

The typical view of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferer is, without doubt, a veteran. And although the anxiety disorder is highly associated with those within the armed forces, retired or not (The Veterans’ Mental Health Charity, 2014), PTSD can in fact affect any individual who encounters a particularly stressful, fearsome, or generally traumatic experience. As well as military combat, many unsettling situations can cause PTSD, such as prolonged abuse, natural disasters, and even terrorist attacks. And the links between PTSD and terrorism is what this article will focus on.

 

So, what does this condition really do to a person?

 

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious anxiety condition following a particularly traumatic event that can cause irritability, intense fear, and sleep interruptions. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people who go through a disturbing event at least once in their lifetime will go on to develop the condition (The National Health Service, 2013).

While PTSD can start to develop immediately after the experience, symptoms may not begin to appear until weeks, months, or sometimes even years later. Among individuals, symptoms can vary, but there are several similarities that most suffering with PTSD will go through.

 

PTSD Symptoms

Reliving the experience: This is the most predictable outcome while suffering from the condition. Victims will regularly, and usually vividly, relive the traumatic experience through invasive flashbacks and recurring nightmares, ultimately leading to constant sleep disruptions. Re-experiencing the event often leads to physical sensations within the body including regular sweating, trembling, and physical pain.

Avoidance: Being a key symptom of PTSD, avoiding specific people or places that may possibly remind the sufferer of the experience is not uncommon. Many people will attempt to push all memories of the trauma completely out of their mind, sidestepping conversation about the experience, focusing on a distraction such as work, and some may even try to block out all emotions. Purposely ignoring feelings is known as emotional numbing. Predictably, this can lead to social isolation and withdrawing from enjoyable activities.

 

 

sad

 

Hyperarousal: Those suffering from PTSD are regularly found to be anxious and generally find it quite hard to relax. Their awareness of threats is heightened, and it is not unusual for victims to become easily frightened or startled. This mentality is otherwise known as hyperarousal.

Other: It is common for victims to acquire other specific problems while dealing with PTSD such as depression, headaches, and drug or alcohol misuse. Due to this, PTSD can seriously affect work, and even breakdown relationships.

Clearly, PTSD can be incredibly distressing, often seriously impacting day-to-day life. Those suffering from the condition are also experiencing physiological changes within the body. As shown through brain scans, the  hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a vital role in learning and memory, is reduced in size among PTSD sufferers. The malfunctioning of the hippocampus may prevent flashbacks from being adequately processed. As a result, anxiety does not diminish over time for people with the condition (Yehuda, 2001). Furthermore, studies (e.g. Yehuda, 2002; Smith et al., 1989) have found abnormally high levels of stress hormones in those suffering from PTSD. These hormones, like adrenaline, are produced when an individual is among potential danger. In turn, a reaction occurs, usually referred to as ‘fight or flight’, which helps the body to prepare for the possible threat. Due to heightened levels of these hormones, people with PTSD live in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode, even when the individual is not in jeopardy. These abnormalities within the brain indicate why someone with PTSD may experience frequent hyperarousal, numbed emotions, and the inability to overcome the trauma (The National Health Service, 2013).

 

So, how are PTSD and terrorism linked?

Terrorism and the development of psychological trauma are probable companions, and while many people can empathise with those involved in a terrorist attack, it is relatively easy to disregard the amount of children that are present during acts of terrorism.  With hundreds of youths affected, there is one incredibly distressing terrorist attack that will forever be remembered: 9/11.

The morning of September 11th, 2001, dramatically distressed the majority of US citizens, additionally affecting many individuals worldwide. With the number of deaths reaching near 3000, the unforgettable attacks on the World Trade Center left an anxiety-filled hole within American society. Without question, numerous adults were heavily psychologically affected by these violent acts of terrorism (Shalev, 2004), leading to speculations about the psychological well-being of the children of New York City.

Not unlike adults, children affected by PTSD display the usual warning signs like anxiety, sleep difficulties, and experience recurring nightmares. Yet, due to age and psychological maturity, children specifically can revert to bedwetting, becoming anxious upon separation from a parent, and, most worryingly, re-enacting the traumatic event through play (Fremont, 2004). Early research into the subject indicates that children are more likely to develop trust issues, feel hopeless about the future, and struggle to maintain peer relationships if exposed to violent trauma at a young age (e.g. Rosen & Fields, 1988; Rigamer, 1986).

tower

 

Following 9/11, a significant number of New York City public school children, ages four through seventeen, were identified as suffering symptoms consistent with a number of anxiety disorders; A massive 26.5% of NYC children not only reported disruptions in day-to-day life but met criteria to be diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder, specifically PTSD (Fairbrother, Stuber, Galea, Fleischman, & Pfefferbaum, 2003). Fairbrother et al., (2003) established high risk factors that contributed to the development of PTSD within these children included parental views of the attacks, the amount of media exposure, and, of course, direct family loss.

Although there are many variables that will affect a young person’s individual reaction to such situations, a child’s capability to cope in regards to terroristic trauma is highly influenced by their parents’ or primary caregivers’ reactions to such events (Deblinger, Steer, & Lippmann, 1999), regardless of whether their family was directly involved. Pessimistic emotions expressed by parents concerning the 9/11 terrorist attacks correlated with higher levels of distress in their children (Fremont, 2004), suggesting that children may use the reactions of their caregivers as an indicator for the severity of the situation (Fairbrother et al., 2003), with distress signifying a fearful or potential threat.

children

While parents play a rather significant role in determining the likelihood of PTSD among children, the amount of media exposure of terroristic actions highly correlates with symptoms of PTSD (Collimore, McCabe, Carleton, & Asmundson, 2008). On September 11th, 2001, adults watched, on average, 8.1 hours of media coverage that day, while children reportedly watched 3.0 hours (Schuster et al., 2001). Children who watched more coverage about the attacks displayed more symptoms of PTSD than children who watched less (Otto et al., 2007). These findings were not only limited to children in close proximity of the attacks but affected youths over 2000 miles away; Children in Seattle demonstrated signs of PTSD following 9/11 equivalent to those living in New York during the attacks (Lengua, Long, Smith, & Meltzoff, 2005), suggesting that many children across the US could have been psychologically affected by the catastrophic events due to high levels of media exposure.

Children affected by 9/11 suffered severe emotional impact, resulting in symptoms consistent with PTSD, if a family member was directly injured, or indeed killed, from the acts of terrorism (Hoven et al., 2005). And, unsurprisingly, a higher rate of PTSD was present in the children who unfortunately lost a parent to the fall

of the twin towers (Whalley & Brewin, 2007), especially as children who lose someone significant are more likely to watch more media coverage in comparison to children without direct losses (Pfefferbaum et al., 1999, cited in Fremont, 2004).

There are many predisposing factors that can increase a child’s risk of developing PTSD. Research shows that young girls are more likely to develop symptoms of the condition than young boys (Lengua, Long, Smith, & Meltzoff, 2005), and it is also believed that a family history of antisocial behaviour and mental health difficulties increases the likelihood of a child developing PTSD after a violent trauma (e.g. Breslau & Davis, 1992; Giaconia et al., 1995). Nevertheless, it has been revealed that several different aspects of family life have been shown to protect a child from stress following a traumatic event, including a dependable emotional relationship with at least one parent (Losel & Bliesener, 1990, cited in Fremont, 2004) and actual physical proximity with the mother or father (Garbarino,  Kostelny, & Dubrow, 1991).

Although that are several different types of treatment for PTSD, including courses of medication, children will often undergo therapy to combat the condition. While it may be hard to confront the anxiety produced by PTSD, seeking professional help is positively linked to effectively defeating this life-altering condition.

tower2

In brief, it is safe to say that 9/11 was an incredibly harrowing and upsetting event, with adults and children alike being severely psychologically affected. The terrorism exhibited on that very troubling and painful day will never be forgotten. Dramatically affecting the mental health of America, it is likely that thousands of citizens across the country suffered from the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the barbaric and unforgivable actions that made the world stand still.

 

 

 

 

References

 

Breslau, N. & Davis, G. C. (1992). Posttraumatic stress disorder in an urban population of young adults: Risk factors for chronicity. The American                 Journal of Psychiatry, 149(5), 671-675. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1992-35283-001

 

Collimore, K. C., McCabe, R. E., Carleton, R. N., & Asmundson, G. J. G. (2008). Media exposure and dimensions of anxiety sensitivity: Differential                 associations with PTSD symptom clusters. Journal of Anxiety Diosrders, 22(6), 1021-1028. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2007.11.002

 

Deblinger, E., Steer, R. A., & Lippmann, J. (1999). Two-year follow-up study of cognitive behavioral therapy for sexually abused children suffering                 post-traumatic stress symptoms. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23(12), 1371-1378. doi: 10.1016/S0145-2134(99)00091-5

 

Fairbrother, G., Stuber, J., Galea, S., Fleischman, A. R., & Pfefferbaum, B. (2003). Posttraumatic Stress Reactions in New York City Children After the           September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks. Ambulatory Pediatrics, 3(6), 304-311. doi: 10.1367/15394409(2003)003<0304:PSRINY>2.0.CO;2

 

Fremont, W. P. (2004). Childhood Reactions of Terrorism-Induced Trauma: A Review of the Past 10 Years. Journal of the American Academy of Child       & Adolescent Psychiatry, 43(4), 381-392. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200404000-00004

 

Garbarino, J., Kostelny, K., & Dubrow, N. (1991). What children can tell us about living in danger. American Psychologist, 46(4), 376-383. Retrieved                 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/46/4/376/

 

Giaconia, R. M., Reinherz, H. Z., Silverman, A. B., Pakiz, B., Frost, A. K., & Cohen, E. (1995). Traumas and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in a                 Community Population of Older Adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 34(10), 1369-1380. doi:          10.1097/00004583-199510000-00023

 

Hoven, C. W., Duarte, C. S., Lucas, C. P., Wu, P., Mandell, D. J., Goodwin, R. D., Cohen, M., Balaban, V., Woodruff, B. A., Bin, F., Musa, G. J., Mei,         L., Cantor, P. A., Aber, J. L., Cohen, P., & Susser, E. (2005). Psychopathology Among New York City Public School Children 6 months                 After September 11. Jama Psychiatry, 62(5), 545-551. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.62.5.545

 

Lengua, L. J., Long, A. C., Smith, K. I., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2005). Pre-attack symptomatology and temperament as predictors of children’s responses to             the September 11 terrorist attacks. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46(6), 631-645. doi: 10.1111/j.14697610.2004.00378.x

 

Otto, M. W., Henin, A., Hirschfeld-Becker, D. R., Pollack, M. H., Biederman, J., & Rosenbaum, J. F. (2007). Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms                following media exposure to tragic events: Impact of 9/11 on children at risk for anxiety disorders. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21(7),      888-902. doi: 10.1016/j/janxdis.2006.10.008.

 

Rigamer, E. F. (1986). Psychological Management of Children in a National Crisis. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 25(3),                 364-369. doi: 10.1016/S0002-7138(09)60258-2

 

Rosen, J. & Fields, R. (1988). The long-term effects of extraordinary trauma: A look beyond PTSD. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2(2), 179-191. doi:          10.1016/0887-6185(88)90024-2

 

Schuster, M. A., Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Collins, R. L., Marshall, G. N., Elliott, M. N., Zhou, A. J., Kanouse, D. E., Morrison, J. L., & Berry, S. H.            (2001). A National Survey of Stress Reactions after the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks. The New England Journal of Medicine, 345,         1507-1512. doi:10.1056/NEJM200111153452024

 

Shalev, A. Y. (2004). Further Lessons from 9/11: Does Stress Equal Trauma? Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 67(2), 174-177. doi:          10.1521/psyc.67.2.174.35958

 

Smith, M. A., Davidson, J., Ritchie, J. C., Kudler, H., Lipper, S., Chappell, P., & Nemeroff, C. B. (1989). The corticotrophin-releasing hormone test in             patients with posttraumatic stress disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 26(4), 349-355. doi: 10.1016/0006-3223(89)90050-4

 

The National Health Service. (2013). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-                disorder/pages/introduction.aspx

 

The Veterans’ Mental Health Charity. (2014). What is PTSD? Retrieved from https://www.combatstress.org.uk/medical-professionals/what-is-ptsd/

 

Whalley, M. G. & Brewin, C. R. (2007). Mental health following terrorist attacks. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 190, 94-96. doi:10.1192/                bjp.bp.106.026427

 

Yehuda, R. (2001). Biology of posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 62(17), 41-46. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/                psycinfo/2001-11162-007

 

Yehuda, R. (2002). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine, 346, 108-114. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra012941

Challenges to journalism

10 August 2015

 

By Stephanie Szeto @stepszeto

 

There are widespread discussions and even fear about the downfall of traditional journalism as claims going around that everyone can be a reporter with the advanced mobile technology and easy online access, which enable people to take instant photos of key moments then share and make comments to social media websites. For example, Hong Kong In-Media, one of the most prominent independent online media platforms in Hong Kong, encourages the public to upload photos, news or articles of what they see and hear on their website. Since it empowers people to report and never deletes articles or commentaries, except hoax or advertising spam, it provides Hongkongers the opportunity to experience the thrill of being journalists.

However, will the above mentioned situation be the combat of journalism? Multiple Journalism website (2015) believes a transformation is needed and the independent journalists with technology mind can stimulate a better journalism in the digital age. By accepting the technological change, journalists can see the diverse channels as a new opportunity rather than a crisis. From my own observation, journalists who are active on Facebook are more popular than those who are not. It can be explained by mere exposure effect that journalists can update their Facebook status every single minute and have direct interaction with readers, and shortens the distance between journalists and fans. Moreover, it can also be explained by the interface of Facebook. Research found that people who prefer Facebook than Twitter enjoy images and entertaining message than plain text. Thus, a journalist posting an article with an appealing image on Facebook is more likely to reach people than publishing on newsletter column. Subsequently, as Multiple Journalism mentioned that the technology era does not bring challenge to journalism if the journalists know how to make use of the new media channels.

Besides, psychology professionals can fully utilize the new media channels to reach the public by providing practical tips and easy to digest knowledge to raise public’s concern about mental health.

Wakeup call of the long-term democratic movement

3 August 2015

By Stephanie Szeto @stepszeto

From last September to December, Harcourt Road outside the Hong Kong government headquarters was filled with tents to protect the Umbrella Revolution protestors from the ever changing weather. Pro-democracy signs were hanging all over the area and the utopia of Harcourt Village was established.

Foreseen that the movement was going to last a while, Hongkongers, who either could not participate the enduring sit-in or some of the them claimed they were too coward to take part in, showed their support by their own style of contribution. Groups of volunteers distributed materials to the protesters, like food, water, face towels or paper fans. Some of them sprayed mist sprayers to cool down the

heat, and the others collected garbage and managed the recycling drop-off area. The female public toilet on the Connaught Road Central had been washed cleaner ever and now filled with toiletries and feminine hygiene by volunteers. A parent expressed on Facebook that her child has never done any housework but now he started to take responsibility of it, and she was surprised how much her son had grown by engaging in the social movement. On the other side of the street, a group of carpenters built a sizeable study corner for the occupying students with chairs, desks and bookshelves. A full-time lifeguard enjoyed carpentry in his pastime came over to help the setup and said, “I don’t want to see the students sacrificing their grades for democracy.” (Frankenberry, Ruzic, & Chan, 2014). The study area included library corner filled with books later known for “Charter Self-study Area” as the Cantonese translation of “Charter” can have the meaning of “umbrella fight”. Inspired by John Lennon’s “Imagine”, Lennon Wall has been created by colourful post-it as wall paper with protesters’ encouraging messages and desires for democracy.

The bitter protest of Umbrella Revolution pro-democracy sit-in has come to an end after 79th days.

During the clearance, camps in the protest sites were torn down and protesters were escorted or carried off to the police arranged coaches. In those districts, traffic resumed heavily jammed as nothing had happened; however, that was not the end but the wakeup call of the long-term democratic movement that demonstration signs demanding for “real universal suffrage” and promising “we will be back” were spread to hang up all over Hong Kong.

Chinese may be susceptible to Internet rumours

27 July 2015

By Stephanie Szeto @stepszeto

 

I believe everyone has heard some kind of rumours, for example in school, at workplace or within friend circle. Since the development of Web 2.0 provided the interactive experience on Internet, the landscape of social networking is getting denser, more complex and participatory (Whittaker, Howarth, & Lymn, 2014). Rumours, at the same time, can be spread broader and quicker through social media than word of mouth (Bai, 2012). A marketing survey found that Facebook was the most popular social networking platform used by Hongkongers that 91% of the respondents used mainly Facebook and the largest age group of Facebook users was 25 to 34 with 55% female. The survey also found that Hongkongers seemed out of favour with traditional media and 44% of the respondents read Facebook for breaking news (Lam, 2014). By my own observation during the Umbrella Revolution, Facebook were the most prominent platform for Hongkongers to read, share and comment the breaking news, in addition, Internet rumours were also widely distributed.

On the first night of Umbrella Revolution, a message, de facto rumour, spread on Facebook that mobile network would be shut down by the Authority sparking the massive rush download of an app called FireChat which allowed mobile users to stay connected with each other through messages without using WiFi or mobile network (Hume & Park, 2014). This rumour freaked me out too and I

was one of those dreaded netizen to rush download FireChat. I rationalised my irrational behaviour by telling myself better safe than sorry. However, without clarified by the Authority, this Internet rumour was scotched because mobile network had never suspended. Yet, the Authority became the suspect to spread the rumour for threatening the protesters and anyone who wanted to flock to the protest sites by producing mass panic.

After that, another Internet rumour was going round about People’s Liberation Army would intervene in the movement. Although the Authority denied the possibility of the intervention, mass panic has been triggered by a mass transmitted derivative work of the Army’s tank on Facebook (Sin, 2014). Perhaps the Tank Man photo, taken during Tiananmen Square Protest in Beijing on 4th June 1989, has imprinted on Hongkongers’ mind, or Hongkongers’ distrust toward the Authority induced the trust of the rumours on Facebook (Bai, 2012). Unlike the older generation, I was too young to feel the impact on the bloody clearance of Tiananmen Square Protest, so I guess the younger generation may not take the Tank Man photo into account, but they tended to believe information on the Internet than the untrustworthy Authority.

Bai (2012) assumed that Chinese are vulnerable to rumour and Liu (2010) attributed this phenomenon to the tendency to use anecdote rathen than seek reliable information to differentiate rumours. But, what is the element to shape Chinese’s irrational behaviour? Gold (2002) suggested self-construal of Chinese may be the element. Living in the collectivistic society, Chinese emphasizes good interpersonal relationship, namely Guanxi network, so they are likely to conform to group members to keep group harmony. This explanation suggested two implications that 1) Chinese tend to believe and conform what in-group members say without criticizing or verifying the truth. 2) Chinese are likely to widely spread what have heard serving as information exchange purpose and hope others would share their information reciprocally. The conformity tendency and internalized interdependent self-construal may turn out leading Hongkongers to easily believe and spread Internet rumours during Umbrella Revolution, especially when they perceived the Authority was unreliable.

Images of umbrella brought Hongkongers together

20 July 2015

By Stephanie Szeto @stepszeto

 

Since the Western media nicknamed Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement as “Umbrella Revolution”, the humble umbrella turned out to be a great source of creation inspiration. The yellow umbrella is especially popular on social media because Hongkongers used yellow ribbon to represent their desires for democracy and universal suffrage, and yellow became the de facto official colour related pro-democracy activities as well as disapproval of the Hong Kong Police’s violence against pro-democracy protestors so far.

The 87 tear gas rounds deployed by the police actually brought Hongkongers together. While some Hongkongers participated in the sit-in at protest sites, the other concentrated on creating artworks to represent Umbrella Revolution. As images can easily attract attention and convey abundant messages in succinct manner (Sontag, 2003), the artworks created by artists, designers and home-based keyboard fighters spread rapidly across social media and received tons of Likes, Comments and Shares on Facebook. People who are pro-democracy changed their Facebook Profile Pic or Facebook Cover to those artworks with themes of yellow umbrella or yellow ribbon. The most impressive among all, is the one with five umbrellas grouped like Bauhinia blakeana flower symbolising the Flag of Hong Kong and those five umbrellas sprang back “five stars” and marked Chinese words meaning “rebound”. This implies that Hong Kong was defending against the intrusion of “five stars” which suggested the Five-star Red Flag of China. Over the past few years, Hongkongers felt that the Mainland government has been tightening progressively its grip over the

city by grasping the economy and manipulating the policy. For example, money from Mainland overwhelmed the real estate markets and created the housing crisis in Hong Kong. Moreover, recently, a Mainland media veteran was brought in to the monopolising free-to-air terrestrial television station, Television Broadcasts (TVB), as controlling stakeholder, to which created a concern about the underlying nested interests of Mainland.

During the sit-in, umbrellas were brought in bulk and distributed freely as shields to protect protesters from police’s next attack, shelters to sleep under and sketchpads to write slogans on. Bryan Druzin, Assistant Professor of law at Chinese University of Hong Kong, believed that umbrella was the emblem of Hongkongers’ passive resistance besides its practical function. Kacey Wong, Hong Kong artist and Assistant Professor of design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, held a mock Umbrella Revolution logo competition on social media. The top three prizes would be Justice, Democracy, and Freedom, and the competition has attracted an influx of entries. Research found that exposure to images of terrorism affect individuals’ emotion and their emotional responses (Iyer, Webster, Hornsey, & Vanman, 2014). Though Umbrella Revolution was not a terrorist attack, it intensely impacted Hongkongers without any doubt. However, the psychological process is yet to be addressed.

Please click the following link for Kacey Wong’s Umbrella Movement Logo Competition https://www.facebook.com/kacey.wong.319/media_set?set=a.10152749673435281.1073741853.681960280&type=3

Umbrella: the symbol of non-violent protest

13 July 2015

By Stephanie Szeto @stepszeto

 

Hong Kong weather is known for its unpredictability. To protect against the sudden rain and strong sunlight, Hongkongers used to prepare an umbrella in their bags all over the year. Since last September, Hongkongers have found a new way to use the umbrella to shield them from the burning pepper spray as well as clouds of tear gas, which had been used by the police to break up mass of serene and ordered protesters who appeared at government’s headquarters to show their support to the captured pro-democracy students. However, the tear gas had the counter-effect to call on tens of thousands of Hongkongers from all ages to approach the government’s headquarters. Although police fired the tear gas more than 80 times into the crowds, the increasing number of Hongkongers who were full of disapproval of the use of tear gas flocked to the protest sites. They held up an umbrella as a shield and put on either surgical masks or safety goggles to protect their faces or eyes. Some of them who did not have goggles wrapped their eyes with plastic wrap taken from kitchen at

home. From their basic gears, we could certainly tell that they just wanted to protect themselves rather than attack. They craved for justice and democracy but not a war.

Since then, the umbrella became the symbol of this non-violent protest which astonished the Western media dubbed the movement as “Umbrella Revolution”. Despite the fact that the protest leaders insisted it was a pro-democracy movement rather than a revolution or the Hong Kong based English newspaper South China Morning Post keeps using the term “Occupy Central”, it could be seen from social media that Hongkongers preferred “Umbrella Revolution” much more. It is because 1) the protesters went out spontaneously to support the students, say no to tear gas, and voice out their desire for justice and democracy as said before rather than spurred by the three Occupy Central advocates. Actually, protesters disregarded the three advocates who have proposed the occupation more than a year without taking any action. 2) The Cantonese translation of Charter Road, located in Central, can have the meaning of “umbrella fight”, therefore, the term “Umbrella Revolution” depicted thoroughly the situation that the protesters were holding umbrella to fight for democracy in Central area. Moreover, 3) umbrella is familiar and symbolic compared to an abstract idea of “occupation”. The term “Umbrella Revolution” spread across the social media and stimulated a lot of creations ever since.

Can Hongkongers trust official source?

1 July 2015

 

By Stephanie Szeto @stepszeto

 

It seems logical that public tend to rely on official source, such as government to have credible disaster information and relevant protective actions than unofficial sources no matter in traditional or social media forms (Wogalter, 2006, Liu, Fraustino, & Jin, 2015). Nonetheless, Palen and colleagues (2009) found that public thinks unofficial sources can sometimes provide more timely and accurate information than official sources. This finding may explain why, in 2003, four Hongkongers decided to change their own website from personal photo sharing to a public SARS information distribution platform which eventually made the government to provide accurate SARS information in a timely manner.

The recent outbreak of Influenza made Hongkongers panic. Despite the statistic shows that 500 to 1000 people die from influenza each year and this figure is higher than the figure of 299 died from SARS epidemic, Hongkongers still blamed the government for not announcing the accurate number of death toll of influenza, which had already exceeded the number of SARS in 2003. Perhaps Hongkongers were still living in the shadow of SARS or Hong Kong government had lost its credibility. However, the counterfactual thinking messages on Facebook could tell that the government had failed Hongkongers’ expectation. Concern about the death toll of influenza might not be that high if the government updated the figure in its official media openly to advise the public how serious the outbreak was. Moreover, the message of “We, Hongkongers, save our own Hong Kong” was widely spread on Facebook to remind everyone to save oneself by wearing mask as the government failed to do its job. Some Hongkongers also made sarcastic comment about they were lucky to live in Hong Kong where Internet Great Firewall is not applied, or the death toll of influenza would be officially announced fewer than 40 by the government; because they observed that the Chinese government would not announce dead figure more than fortyish regardless of how serious the disaster was.

Recently, a Singaporean teenage Amos Yee, who uploaded a self-performed video to YouTube to criticise the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, was arrested and kept in a cell with bright lights switching on for 23 hours every day at Changi Prison; then ended up transferred to the Institute of Mental Health on 23rd June. This incident attracted so much attention from Hongkongers because a few months ago, the Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 issue was raised again and there has been a lot of public concern about freedom of speech, especially on Internet, that any expressing and receiving any government unwelcome messages or political satire creations may be regarded as illegal, or turned out to be sent to mental hospital like Yee.

Salford Research Team Win BPS Psychobiology Section Summer Internship 2015

24 June 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.

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

13 March 2015

 

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.

 

 

The endless possibilities of Psychology…

26 November 2014

To describe the BPS North West of England Branch Conference (co-hosted with Psychology at Salford) in three words would be; insightful, empowering, thought provoking, intelligent, educative and informative. Now I know that’s more than three words but you can’t sum up a day that covers social change, social psychology of parenting, insights from eye tracking, media representations of breast cancer survivorship and more, all in one sitting. A day that covered a spectrum of subjects, the intake of information was explosive. We journeyed together through contemporary Psychology and how a science that has such a broad history is being applied and redefined in the 21st Century.

I believe that the day had something that would interest everyone but what really caught my attention were the talks given by Dr Abigail Locke (University of Huddersfield), Dr Adam Galpin and Cathy Ure.

We ventured through the world of parenthood with Dr Abigail Locke (University of Huddersfield) who discussed ‘The Social Psychology of Parenthood’ .Parenting is something many of our students, myself included, can relate to. We are constantly bombarded with information on the latest representations of how the perfect mother should parent. In her talk, Dr Locke explored the social representations of mothers and how over time, the social norm of what being a mother consists of has changed. For example how the working mother is now considered a normality and how parenting guides and books relating to parenthood had accompanied that change. How stay at home fathers are now more common, how they are perceived and how they perceive themselves. I found myself becoming immersed in the talk, mentally ticking the list of parenting styles I agreed and disagreed with, and the latest fad that was all the rage. Saying to myself ‘well my partner had to go back to work, he earned three times as much as i did”. I think it’s always a positive side effect of a good talk if you become involved in their contents.

Dr Adam Galpin (University of Salford) gave an insightful (excuse the pun!) talk on how we take information using infrared light to track peoples eye movements. I may be slightly biased as I actually had the pleasure of taking part in an eye-tracking study in my first week at Salford. It could also be due to the fact I studied media and advertising in further education which drew me in. Nevertheless I became engrossed as Dr Galpin talked over how this information is taken and evaluated so that we can then understand what information the viewer is taking in. Speaking from both sides of the study, it was really interesting to compare what the participant (myself) experienced, and what information was considered and assessed. I would encourage anyone to participate in such research if the opportunity presents itself.

On a subject that affects many people – , Cathy Ure (University of Salford) discussed her research on the media representations of breast cancer survivorship . We discovered how the media depicts breast cancer survivorship and how we interpret survivorship. Cathy Ure talked about ‘the spiral of silence’ theory, the idea that the media dominate representations of survival, so that alternative views and experiences will not be articulated, how ‘survivors’ may feel in fear of being rejected and how they tend to conform with the majority representations. In Lorna Paterson’s recent L4 lecture on Social Groups, we were introduced to this very same theory of social influence and the exercise of social power by a person or group to change the attitudes or behaviours of others in a particular direction (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). This drew me in, not just as a subject matter close to my heart, but also how the basic fundamentals I am learning about in class, can be applied and understood in the ‘real’ world.

Another presentation that wasn’t initially on my agenda, but I found interesting nonetheless, had to be Sharon Coen’s (University of Salford) talk on how we can utilise the growth of social media and incorporate our knowledge of psychology to learn, and consolidate this information to instigate social change. She gave a personal account of how she used social media to create a platform for a neutral ground of speech for friends from Palestine and Israel in their time of current conflict. I found this really empowering, to see how we can use social media for good in the world.

Now if what I’ve discussed doesn’t set your intellectual tastebuds tingling then rest assured there would have been something to suit you elsewhere during the day. One thing I did find disheartening was the low attendance at the conference on the day. Maybe more advertising and student involvement would help for next year’s conference? The peel hall is a beautiful setting and the content for the day of a vast spectrum, but the numbers didn’t start of as high as one would have hoped, and began to dwindle towards the end of the day. I’m not sure the reason for this? The conference held up its side of the deal, even a free lunch (which was lovely by the way). Is there a reason you were a no show? Or if you decided to leave early, why? If there was a reason you left, tell us, so we can improve and make future events more enjoyable.
What I did notice and thought this was a really inventive idea and hope to see repeated again at next years conference, was the we had invited some perspective A level students considering Psychology as their next step. From what i gather, A level and university level psychology differ significantly and these types of events could help bridge the gap. And, if I had one other suggestion, it would be that in parts, the momentum lacked slightly and lost its ‘umph’, to retain the visitors attention I would suggest the possibility of more interaction, within the presentations themselves and during the course of the day.

So what did i take away from today? The answer…a lot! When I arrived this morning I expected to sit through talks that felt beyond me, discussing subjects I didn’t fully understand, and feeling almost out of my depth.What I found was that even though I’m new to psychology, having only been here at Salford for 5 weeks, the topics discussed were relatable. I understood their value and I related to them. More than that, I understood why the speakers were in front of me presenting their work. Because psychology matters and it is relevant, and makes a difference to how we view and participate in our world. Attending the conference opened my eyes to how the possibilities in psychology are endless. The horizon of social issues available to investigate and those that are still to be uncovered is mind-blowing. It excited me, it ignited a need to find out more and I can’t wait to get started.

To find out more or to register for the next event in our Free Seminar Series follow the link:
http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/psychology-seminar-series-201415-psychological-well-being-at-work-whats-the-real-problem-tickets-13456730443

Volunteering, an idea worth spreading

13 November 2014

By Nikki Street and Tom Mayers

nikki tom

Here’s the obligatory #selfie of us on the day!

The SalfordPsych Engagement Team asked if I (Nikki) could write a blog after spotting some photos of me volunteering at TEDxSalford this year. I of course said yes, who wouldn’t want to write a blog (?!) but immediately invited my friend Tom on board.  Whilst I can take some credit (and the benefits) for volunteering on the day, Tom has been a part of the TEDxSalford team and blogging for them for over 2 years now. We have written this post together to explore our different experiences and highlights from the day.

Two years ago, we were delegates at TEDxSalford 2012 and found the whole thing so inspirational. We are both Psychology graduates and even though our research interests are pretty different, we both enjoy the TED events. Another similarity between us is that we volunteered for different organizations during our undergraduate Psychology studies. I volunteered and continue to volunteer at the Samaritan’s offering emotional support to people struggling to cope and training for new volunteers. Tom volunteered at the Manchester probation service and is now working for the organisation full time in a job he loves.

You might have heard of TED before, or watched hours of these amazing lectures online. The pretense is to give an 18 minute talk with the aim to inspire. TEDxSalford is a locally organized event bringing people together in Salford to share their work and ideas. Mishal Saeed is the Curator and Licensee for TEDxSalford and also a previous President of the University of Salford Student Union. TEDxSalford is now the largest independent TEDx organization in the UK.

                                              

What was our best part of TEDxSalford this year?

Nikki – A noble peace prize-winner, a teenage nuclear scientist and a psychoanalyst walk into the Lowry…I know this sounds like the start to a very strange joke but this is the reason why I loved volunteering for TEDxSalford so much. The event brings together so many different people from different backgrounds. Being part of the team meant I met many of the speakers, which really highlighted how they are just ordinary people doing extraordinary things – their stories show the goodness in the world!

I can’t pick one talk that I enjoyed the most, but my 3 favourite were:

  1. Tawakkol Karmen, the Noble Peace Prize winner for her peaceful protests and non-violent attempts towards peace building and women’s rights in Yemen. Listening to her talk and hearing (and being part of) the longest standing ovation on TEDxSalford record gave me goose pimples. She is an inspiration human being. Fact.
  2. I heard, from the side of stage, Sophia Wallace speaking about her artwork ‘Cliteracy’. Once I got over the repeated taboo word ‘clit’, a word that, according to Sophia, has become needlessly taboo I listened to the message. Whilst male sexuality is often discussed and widely acknowledged, female sexuality is often limited to menstruation and reproduction. We need to rethink women’s sexuality, particularly in sex education. Vagina literally means sword holder and Sophia’s artwork tries to ask questions about this ingrained inequality in our society.
  3. Lucy Hawking was also a highlight, she tries to break down the barriers of communication and science using children’s stories to engage and identify with children living lives not represented in ‘standard’ family dynamics. Although I only managed to catch the end of her talk, it was definitely in my top 3 of the day!

 

Robin Ince Tom

Robin Ince- Comedian, Actor & Writer with Tom

Tom- I am a big fan of Robin Ince. Both Nikki and I have been to see him twice at the Lowry theatre over the years and we both listen to his BBC Radio 4 show with Professor Brian Cox “The Infinite Monkey Cage”. I mithered, badgered and queried until I was allocated as Ince’s speaker liaison for the day. I was responsible for making his TEDxSalford experience as comfortable and as easy as possible. It was great to converse with him on a wide variety of subjects. Even more amazing was that Ince needed to get to Piccadilly station quickly after his talk and the best scenario was for me to take him in my car. Imagine having your hero in the front seat of your car! As amazing as the experience was, it was also one of dread as I didn’t really know how to get to the station! I had to “be cool”, as if this was a normal experience. I had to actively listen to what Ince was saying and respond accordingly, read the road signs, try not to crash and get to the destination in one piece. Needless to say, we did get there, on time and in one piece. Who says men can’t multitask?

 

What was our take away from the experience?

Nikki- Working on the ticketing team throughout the day, we saw pretty much everyone attending the event. The mix of attendees astounded me with parents, children, students, and all the people in between. TED brings together a range of people and I believe that is the beauty of the event. My main takeaway of the day was how spreading ideas about science in different ways is particularly important (children, art & individual stories). I believe in the power of interdisciplinary collaborations in science and this is where some of the best work happens. Jack Sim a.k.a. ‘Mr. Toilet’ in his 18 min slot reflected on his rationale for trying to make a difference by highlighting the importance of proper sanitation in a society. Jack Sim worked out on average how many days he had to live and wanted to do something useful with the rest of his days. Following this, I found myself working out my average days left in my life. In the UK life expectancy for women is 82.3 years and 78.2 years for men- on this logic I have 20,160 days left to live and the day made me determined to fill them with meeting my own goals and strive to help others.

Tom- Besides taking away the memories of meeting interesting people such as Lucy Hawking, Jack Sim and Robin Ince, one of the positive impacts of being involved with TEDxSalford is the skills that the opportunity develops. Throughout my two year experience as a volunteer, I have developed many skills and experiences such as: writing articles, editing, writing code, marketing, event management, and communicating with high profile individuals to name a few. The above skills and experiences are things that I probably wouldn’t be able to develop in a normal full-time role, perhaps because TEDx isn’t a normal voluntary opportunity. But it is one I would actively encourage someone to get involved with.

 

Everybody has his/her own TED talk- what would you say?

Nikki- I don’t think anyone has seen or been to a TED event and not considered what they would say in 18 minutes to inspire. My research based in empirical aesthetics has ties with many areas of psychology including perception, cognition and environmental psychology. Whilst investigating the power of art and beauty was once a main domain of psychologists but has fallen out of favour partly because of the associated experimental difficulty. I believe the Arts and Science should be reunited to engage and inspire others and change the stuffy perception of science into the more accessible field of Art. I am particularly interested in using art as science communication to make research accessible to everyone.

Tom-Of course, if something disastrous happened within TEDxSalford and as a matter of last resort the curators said to me “Tom, you’re going to have to talk for 10 minutes, we’re desperate!”. There is a lot I could probably talk about, although, I am very passionate about education and the concept of intelligence. As a psychology student at university, I became interested and passionate about the concept of intelligence, especially in relation to how creativity plays a role. Personally, I believe that creativity is equally important to the role of intelligence as academic abilities like mathematics. Without creativity, our knowledge is useless as we would not know how to use it constructively or think in abstract ways. Behind every great human achievement whether it is the wheel, pyramids, medicine or technology, creativity worked hand in hand with classical characteristics associated with intelligence. At university, I was attracted to reading around Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences and believe that creativity has a seat at the table of intelligence. This interest also helped shape my first ever article for TEDxSalford which can be found here.

 

nikki volunteerInspired to become a TEDxSalford volunteer?

Driving home pumped and full of inspiration, we can’t highlight enough the enjoyment of our day volunteering at TEDxSalford.  It really was a festival of the mind and trying to turn off that inspiration to get to sleep was a challenge. Volunteering at TEDxSalford certainly fits the brief and spirit of the event “ideas worth spreading”.

If you think volunteering at TEDxSalford is something you might be interested in, keep an eye on the website or follow on twitter (@TEDxSalford) for updates. If you are thinking about volunteering in any area we would urge you to go for it! The benefits and experiences gained in volunteering such as meeting people you would never encounter, building your confidence and career prospects in the future can’t be underestimated!

Our twitter names…

@NCMJones

@TheRealMayerzee

 

 

 

 

Ivett Interviews: Marina Andrielli

10 November 2014

Ivett interviewed Marina Andrielli this week! Marina is an intern at the University of Salford and she came all the way from Italy to work on one of  Dr Sharon Coen’s projects with her. She obtained her Master Degree in Business Psychology at the University of “La Sapienza” in Rome.

1. How did you get into Psychology?

I read Freud when I was 12 years old. By studying it, I realized that this is my area of interest.

2. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

During my University Study I came across many psychologists who I either loved or not. But I met one Psychologist during my studies and I really loved him. He is Prof. Francesco Avallone He was in charge of Work Psychology, Organizational Development, Organizational Culture, Organizational Effectiveness, Human Resource Development, Employee Training, and Employee Wellness. He has published many books about Business Psychology and in each of them, as in every lesson; there was a lesson in life. A practical and pragmatic connection between his subject and what in the world and of the world, we students would have to learn. Vice Rector, then Rector in “La Sapienza” Unibersity of Rome, in an opening speech of the year he said: “(…) My students are very diligent … ordered … too much ordered … too diligent ..and this order and all this diligence is due in part to the difficulty of thinking about the future. We must not stop thinking about the future. Depending on the future that we imagine we can really change our action today. ”  You can see Prof Avallone’s  profile here.

3. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

I am very interested in Subliminal Persuasion in the media. Specifically, I conducted a literature search for my Master Thesis about subliminal audio messages. I believe there is more research to be done in this area. It is a very stimulating topic!

4. What makes Psychology Department at Salford unique?

I still do not know the Salford of University well but I can say I got used to a more formal university system in Italy.  Surely I can say I got used to a more formal university system in Italy. Enhancement of sharing areas through specific structures,  colours, passions and ideas … this is that comes to my mind when I think of the University of Salford.

5. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

I would not change my university education.  I think I would choose to enrol in “La Sapienza” and redo the path ( winding) that brought me here to make this experience.

6. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

The research on subliminal audio messages to which I referred in point 3. I would liked to explore this topic further in the future.

7. What are you working on at the moment?

I am Intern in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Salford. I am following one of  Dr. Sharon Coen’s project: Member of Communication, Cultural & Media Studies Research Centre. It is a work in Progress!

8. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

I would choose to be a musician.

9. Do you have a favourite quote?

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S.Elliot

10. Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook. But I’m throwing on Twitter !

11. Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

I believe that there is one for each area of interest.

12. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Studying psychology can be a double edged sword. Maybe I advise them not to fall into the traps of the mind! No, It’s a joke……I don’t feel able to give advice to SalfordPsych students. I hope that they take as much as they can from their experience, because it is unique and unrepeatable.  

13. What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

More and more Research!

You can contact Marina via email: aram.andrielli@gmail.com

“Thoughts on Psychology at Salford’s new seminar series “Applying Psychology in the 21st Century”

4 November 2014

It is rare these days that we get something for nothing. As level 4 students will know from John Allbutt’s recent Lecture on Affiliation, attraction and love, some people are motivated on a cost/reward basis. Well, what costs nothing, and then rewards you with an insightful view of applying psychology? The first in our ‘Free Seminar Series on Applying Psychology in the 21st century’ that is what.

The series kicked off with Sam Grogan (Researcher and Dean of students), offering a penetrating view of ‘absorption’ for the performer resulting in the potential of them encountering ‘optimal experience’. Some Level 4 students were quoted as being ‘mind blown’ and others ‘mindful’. The general feedback was that the experience was a great insight into what we may expect to see in the future of contemporary Psychology. The presentation engaged the viewer, and kept your attention causing participation and development in your own ideas and opinions.

Theories that explained how performers become lost in the performance they are giving, are no longer just the performer but merged with the objects they are encountering which in turn offers the possibility of ‘optimal experience” for the performer, how this can be effected by repetition, causing the performer to loosen their ‘grip’ and how these methodologies can be considered in other fields were just some of what was covered. These theories were reinforced by memorable narrative quotes from such books as ‘winnie the pooh’; this may sound odd, but during the presentation made perfect sense.

The session ended with an invitation to take part in a practical focus session allowing the audience to become ’absorbed’ through techniques used within Grogan’s own practical work. By focussing on only music and allowing the subconscious to take the lead on our physical movement creating movement in its own way: dance.

I would definitely recommend, if you haven’t already, that you see for yourself. You may not follow the narrative 100% but you will understand the general theme of what it being presented and this can only lead to an increase our knowledge and help us become more independent in our thoughts and ideas in psychology. It is not going to cost anything other than your time for what could be an invaluable session. I have registered for the next one, have you?

Heres how;
http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/psychology-seminar-series-201415-psychological-well-being-at-work-whats-the-real-problem-tickets-13456730443

Also, If you would like to take a look at the presentation by Sam Grogan you can do so here;
http://blackboard.salford.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-129653-dt-announcement-rid-3232418_1/xid-3232418_1

 

 

Ivett Interviews: Mike Lomas

3 November 2014

 

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Ivett interviewed Mike Lomas this week.  

Mike is a  Phd Student and a Part-Time Lecturer here at Salford University. 

 

1. How did you get into Psychology?

I actually discovered the subject by accident. I was originally studying to become a physiotherapist, but my modules in human anatomy and physiology were not sufficient to get me onto my desired degree. My tutor then advised I study psychology alongside them and it was here that I fell in love with it. I began to develop a more comprehensive understanding of ‘health’ beyond physical wellbeing, and how psychology can be of huge benefit to people’s lives.

2. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

That is a very good question! I guess I have never really thought about choosing a favourite. A name that springs to mind is Philip Zimbardo. Obviously his work is ground-breaking and he is very well known, but I am a huge admirer of his passion and enthusiasm. His recent work with the Heroic Imagination Project has great potential to be a real force for good. You can read more about Philip Zimbardo’s work on Heroic Imagination here.

3. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

My main interest is mental health and the promotion of well-being. Broadly speaking, I look to use psychology to have a positive impact of

people’s lives. The beauty of this issue is that it can be applied in almost any context, be it healthcare, education, employment, or just about any human environment.

4. What makes Psychology Department at Salford unique?

I would have to say the applied nature of the work conducted by the staff. The department consists of experts covering broad range of topics, not only theoretically, but also working in the field. This means that they are actively putting their knowledge in the practice to benefit people’s lives and also using this experience to further inform their teaching.

5. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

This sounds like a cop out, but Salford. I was born and raised here, so I have a strong attachment with the area and it certainly forms part of my identity. If I were forced to study elsewhere then I would probably choose the University of Copenhagen. I have for a long time been fascinated by Scandinavian culture and this is the oldest and largest university in Denmark. They also have a highly regarded psychology department! We frequently see nations in this region scoring highly in terms of quality of life and I believe that from a psychological perspective there is a lot to be learned from the Scandinavian model, which could be used to inform practice here in the UK.

6. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

I couldn’t really single out a single project, but I have recently been working as a research associate at the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU), here at the University of Salford . They do a lot of work with marginalised and invisible groups such as gypsy and travelling communities, the homeless, and asylum seekers. Whenever you see such individuals discussed it’s usually from an outsider’s perspective and I’ve found that working with them provides a real insight into their lives and experiences. Find more information about Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit here.

7. What are you working on at the moment?

I recently began working towards my PhD here at Salford. It’s a multidisciplinary project covering such areas as environmental and social psychology, urban studies, human geography and mental health. Specifically I am looking at urban regeneration and how this may impact on identity. Many of the ways in which we define ourselves are embedded in physical structure and I’m investigating whether changes to an environment can impact on self-concept. Also, as with much of my work, I will be exploring the impact of such projects on mental health and wellbeing.

8. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

Definitely investigative journalism. George Orwell once said that; “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” So, yes. I guess I would enjoy being a professional trouble-maker. I’d also like to think I’d still consider things from a psychological perspective.

9. Do you have a favourite quote?

I don’t have a favourite, but one that I recently stumbled across is:

“If the human brain were simple enough for us to understand, we would be too simple to understand it.”

I feel it nicely highlights the paradox that is human psychology. It’s also a good, go to quote if a question from a particularly insightful student has you stumped!

10. Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter, absolutely. I find people are often cynical about social media use, but I believe it is down to how you choose to interact with it. Scratch the surface and you have an excellent source of information, resources, discussion, and debate. I certainly wish I had discovered it earlier into my academic career.

 11. Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

I couldn’t really recommend a particular book, but rather any research methods book than you feel is helpful to you. I find this area, particularly stats, is one that can cause a great deal of anxiety for students. A good research methods book that you find easy to understand can prove a real life-saver.

12. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Think ahead. Graduation may seem a long way off, but once you’re into your studies, three years will fly by. Ideally you want a plan of what’s next, so you can hit the ground running on graduation.

13. What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

I know it isn’t much to ask, but I want it to help save the world. Climate change, war, famine; these are all human-based problems with human-based solutions, which I’d very much like to see solved.

 

If you would like to know more about Mike, please find his blog here.  You can also find Mike on Twitter @MikeLomas_ .

 

Thinking like an educator! Educational Psychology in the final year of undergraduate studies

24 October 2014

For the Educational Psychology module in the final year of our undergraduate programmes, students are required to think like an educator and produce a seminar proposal for teachers on a selected topic from the field of Educational Psychology. Last year we decided to showcase students’ work for the module (see here). The post was very popular so we’ve decided to do it again.

carmen

Carmen-Florentina Ionita

Carmen-Florentina Ionita, BSc (Hons) Psychology graduate (and winner of  Best Psychology Student 2014), developed a seminar proposal for teachers on the socio-emotional development of gifted and talented children. Carmen is now studying her MSc in Neuroimaging for Clinical and Cognitive Neurosciences at the University of Manchester and kindly agreed for her Educational Psychology work to be showcased on our blog (see below).

Educational Psychology can be “…loosely defined here as the application of psychological theories, research and techniques to the educational development of young people in the context of the home, school and community” Holliman (2013, p. xxii).  More broadly, educational psychology also considers how people of all ages learn, how teaching and learning practice can be improved, whether different people should be taught differently, and how learning can transform the person and impact upon their lives.  The Educational Psychology module assignment focuses on the application of theory to teaching practice.

Happy reading!

Ivett Interviews: Dr Catherine Thompson

20 October 2014

This week Ivett interviewed Dr Catherine Thompson,  Lecturer in Psychology. Catherine is the  module leader for the Cognitive modules on the undergraduate Psychology programmes. Catherine’s research focuses on visual cognition and her main areas of interest include how observers allocate their attention effectively and what factors influence selection; limits in the control of attention and the impact of a preceding task on the allocation of attention; and the influence of environmental factors on cognitive performance.

 

 

  1. How did you get into Psychology?

I kind of just fell into Psychology. It wasn’t something I planned – more the fact that there were very few a-level choices available in my sixth form and Psychology appealed to me. It worked out well though!

 

  1. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

I’m not sure I have a favourite Psychologist. I’ve read the work of so many fantastic researchers and I’ve met some really great people from the field that I don’t think I could pick one in particular. Having said that, I really admire the work completed by Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch on working memory. It is such an important concept that relates to so many aspects of human behaviour. The working memory model has been very influential in identifying how and why people differ in cognitive ability, and the work in this area has led to improvements in functioning for a number of populations and in a variety of settings. I am also very much in awe of Daniel Kahneman. A Nobel Prize winner (in economic sciences, despite being a Psychologist), his research and the way in which he communicates this work have made a huge impact on our understanding and recognition of thought processes.

 

  1. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

I am most interested in Cognition, and within Cognition my preferred topic is visual attention. I find it so interesting that we don’t process the external environment in the way that we think we do, and what we attend to is influenced by our previous experiences. It really does show that every person has a unique and individual view of the world.

 

  1. What makes the Psychology Department at Salford unique?

I think our department is unique in two ways. The first is the staff – we always go that extra mile to support our students. The second is our students (obviously!). We have a really diverse mix of students and they each bring something special to the department.

 

  1. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

I really enjoy my job so I think I would be happy working in any Psychology department. My answer would therefore be based on where I would most like to live – either Manchester (I love living in Manchester, so any uni in this area would suit me) or Edinburgh (I really like the city of Edinburgh and my Mum was born there so it feels very special).

 

  1. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

From my own perspective the most fascinating project I was involved in was the work I conducted for my PhD. The work was very theoretical and although I’m in favour of applying research to the real world it was a real privilege to investigate something purely for the purpose of expanding knowledge within a specific area – who knows where that sort of thing could lead! I wouldn’t expect many people to be fascinated by the topic though (!) so another very interesting project I was involved in was the ‘Thrill Laboratory’ which investigated different aspects of thrill-seeking behaviour. We were based at Alton Towers for two days taking all sorts of behavioural and physiological recordings from people as they went on a roller coaster – completely different to the sort of work I am usually involved in.

 

  1. What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working with my lovely intern from Italy (Alessia Pasquini) and we are just about to run an experiment investigating how the demands of one task can affect attention and performance in a second task. This is an effect I’ve termed “carry-over” and it reveals the importance of attentional control in everyday tasks. As soon as the task demands change we should update our attentional settings, but findings show that we don’t always do this, which results in attention and resources being directed towards irrelevant information. I am also in the process of writing up a previous experiment in this area to submit for publication so my mind is fully focused on carry-over at the moment! I have other data that is waiting to be written up and submitted (some work on the influence of emotion on attention and another study that one of my dissertation students completed looking at how mind wandering – or daydreaming – narrows our spread of attention). I am also focusing on teaching at the moment because most of my modules run this semester and I’m trying to get to know the new Psychology and Criminology students and my new personal tutees. It’s a busy time, but it is challenging and fun.

 

  1. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

I have absolutely no clue! I don’t really spend time thinking about alternative options, and “what ifs”, I prefer to focus on the present. If I didn’t enjoy my job I might think about other options but so far I’ve been very happy in my chosen profession.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite quote?

“Those who give too much attention to trifling things become generally incapable of great things” (La Rochefoucauld)

10.  Facebook or Twitter?

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I’m pretty ‘anti’ social media so my answer would be “neither”. I do have a Twitter account though so I guess if I had to choose it would be Twitter. I definitely don’t do Facebook!

 

11.   Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

We give students recommended textbooks on each module so I don’t want to repeat texts that have already been suggested. Instead I would recommend some ‘lighter’ reading for those spare moments, and I’ll suggest two. The first is “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” by Oliver Sachs, which covers a whole range of case studies of patients suffering from neurological disorders. The second is “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman; not an easy book to read but it provides so much information about the process of thinking and reasoning. It will give you a whole new perspective on Psychology and the importance of studying the mind.

 

12.  What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Can I give two pieces of advice? 1. Read journal articles (please!). 2. Keep an open mind – just because you may be more interested in one specific topic area in Psychology it doesn’t mean that other areas are less valuable. Every area within Psychology has a role in our understanding of behaviour and human performance.

 

13.  What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

I hope it continues to thrive and I really hope that as Psychologists we can continue to develop theories and apply these theories to real-world settings – I see both as integral to the field and equally important. Also, I hope that Psychology continues to interest me for many years because as you can see above I don’t really know what else I would be doing!

 

If you would like to know more about Catherine Thompson, please check her Profile out on the Hub.

You can also find Adam on Twitter @catthompson1