Saturday, 11 October 2014

Link feast

Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:

Maria Konnikova profiles her former mentor Walter Mischel - the creator of the famous Marshmallow Experiments - who has published his first pop psychology book at age 84.  

A new paper claims that there's a consensus among experts that violent media cause aggression in children. At the Guardian Head Quarters blog, Pete Etchells and Chris Chambers criticise both the findings of the paper and the editorial processes that led to its publication. 

The three joint winners of this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine appeared as guests on the Guardian Science Weekly podcast.

James Hamblin at the Atlantic looks into the latest research that suggests we're happier anticipating purchased experiences than material goods. 

By understanding the cultural background to different forms of greeting we can better anticipate when to go for the fist bump, bro hug or even a standard handshake, says the Crew Blog. 

The idea of "levelling" - adjusting reading material to suit each child's ability - has come in for criticism lately, says Annie Murphy Paul at the Atlantic, but a new online programme could provide a way to offer the benefits of levelling, while also keeping children sufficiently challenged. 

Find out what happened when sceptic Mark Tilbrook handed out fliers at a psychic event, encouraging people to think about the clues that might distinguish between someone with supernatural powers and someone who just appears to have them. 

The Neurocritic presents highlights from a paper charting the rising of "neuro-ization".

It's more helpful to think of Milgram's shock experiments as a work of art, than as science, says Malcolm Harris at Aeon magazine. That way, they "can tell us about much more than obedience to authority; they speak to memory, trauma, repetition, the foundations of post-war social thought, and the role of science in modernity."

An interview with John Cacioppo, one of the world's leading experts on loneliness. 
Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.


Research Digest said...

As far as I can tell, studies like this tell you absolutely nothing about the clinical usefulness of trying to change how you picture pain. As someone who has had a lot of low back pain, presumably as the long term consequence of an L3-L3 fusion 18 years ago, I know that it hurts a lot if I stand for very long. I also know that it's relieved quite quickly if I sit down for a few minutes. But I have no idea what it means in real life to change how I picture it. It just hurts.

One thing is clear. If any of these ideas worked well, chronic pain would not the huge problem that it is. I've sat through meetings of pain experts, and listening to the talks you get the impression that there is something effective that they can do. There isn't. Articles like this offer false hope to real patients. I'm not denying the existence of placebo effects, but I get the impression that most placebo effects are too small and too transient to be of much help to patients.

Research Digest said...

The question of "what parts of brain control different parts of the body" is the province of physiology, not of psychology (though one hopes that psychologists learn enough physiology to assess critically experimental observations in that area). Health teaching is important insofar as it generates useful treatments for patients. Judging by the very limited successes of things like CBT, they should, perhaps, not get too much time (the same can be said of drug treatments for depression too).

What does need more time is teaching students to be critical about the evidence for health claims. They need to be able to see through the hype. There is only too much hype in psychology, and in pharmacology too.

Research Digest said...

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