Monday, 5 October 2009

One nagging thing you still don't understand about yourself

The email edition of the British Psychological Society's Research Digest has reached the milestone of its 150th issue. That's over 900 quality, peer-reviewed psychology journal articles digested since 2003. To mark the occasion, the Digest editor has invited some of the world's leading psychologists to look inwards and share, in 150 words, one nagging thing they still don't understand about themselves. Their responses are by turns candid, witty and thought-provoking. Here's what they had to say:

Susan Blackmore: Consciousnessimage by jcoterhals
Paul Broks: What should I do?
David Buss: Overcoming irrationality
Robert Cialdini: Over-commitment
Marilyn Davidson: Lost opportunities
Elizabeth Loftus: Nightmares
Paul Ekman: Death and forgiveness
Sue Gardner: Dark places
Alison Gopnik: Parenthood
Jerome Kagan: Methodological flaws
Stephen Kosslyn: Satiators and addicts
Ellen Langer: Optimism
David Lavallee: Sporting rituals
Chris McManus: Beauty
Robert Plomin: Nature, nurture
Mike Posner: Learning difficulties
Stephen Reicher: Who am I?
Steven Rose: The explanatory gap
Paul Rozin: Time management
Norbert Schwarz: Incidental feelings
Martin Seligman: Self-control
Robert Sternberg: Career masochism
Richard Wiseman: Wit

I'd like to extend my sincere thanks to the contributors for baring their psyches and sacrificing their time. Thanks also to The Independent for helping spread the word. Here's to the next 150 issues of the Research Digest!

This special Research Digest feature was brought to you by the the British Psychological Society, the representative body for psychology and psychologists since 1901.

-Join the British Psychological Society.
-Read the latest Psychologist magazine.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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Anonymous said...

How underwhelming. The great psychological minds of times and not on insight amongst them. One of them said: "In psychology, you are rewarded (1) partly for the research you do, and (2) partly for (a) the topic on which you do the research and (b) the methods you use". What happened to healing individual suffering? Making a difference to an individuals' life?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the focus here is on the top RESEARCH psychologists not clinical psychologists or therapists. Two different things, both important.

Anonymous said...

Great poll. So much fun to get a small window into such diverse group of smart people.
PS: Don't confuse lack of understanding with lack of whelmingness.

Anonymous said...

How skillfully they avoid revealing anything really personal about themselves and in many cases find a way to tout their virtues!

Anonymous said...

Ms. Gopnik's answer was quite disappointing. At least it wasn't self-promoting. On the contrary, it made me wonder what she's learned in all of her studying of parenthood. She was surprised by why we could love babies yet not want our young adult children with us, when they are utterly unlike babies--no longer wide eyed, filled with wonder and amusement, no longer dependent, but willful, difficult, uncontrollable, unconsolable? Seems pretty obvious.

Her comment that the goal of parenthood is ill defined seemed even weirder. In most cases, the goal of parenthood is to create a person who can do right what we did wrong, whether that's be happy, or be faithful, or be bright, or successful, it's the general goal for most of us if we are honest with ourselves.

George said...

Here's my stab at it:

In my research agenda I have become evermore convinced of the role of contingency, chance, as an "explanatory" event. It's now clear to me that many of our explanations about phenomena are simply ex post facto "Just So" stories tracing one path through an overdetermined--and highly random--sequence of events.

So, knowing that, why do I persist in making concrete plans for the future at all?

Dr. Sam said...

Pretty dark and discouraging remarks.

Anonymous said...

this is proof that REAL science cannot be underwritten by governments and central banks.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps psychoanalysis may provide insight for some of the respondents, especially those who avoided answering the question.

Anonymous said...

I'm a sociologist, and not super psychology-prone, but there's an excerpt of this article in the November (I think) Harper's that piqued my interest. I like this article. Self-reflection and humility is interesting.

Now the tired old joke we sociologists tell ourselves is that those people who get into sociology do so because they don't get people. (We have a tired old comparative saw for why psychologists get into their profession too, so laugh it up, fuzzball.) I may have some less-thoughtful reflections on myself; but as a sociologist, what I am always wondering when I'm on-line is why people (Americans in the 21st century?) so often revert to postures of aggressive indignation when commenting on others' thoughtful, self-revealing reflections. Should anonymity produce antisocial behaviors to the extent we observe on internet commentary? Is what keeps us civilized a lack of anonymity? Yet antisocial internet commentaries don't seem to differ much from contemporary standards of comportment and discourse on non-anonymous television. If we see in this the historical development of a culture, does it have to do with a context of rapidly-increasing economic and political inequality in a very large, class-conflicted country, and an attendant further normalization of displays of dehumanizing anti-sympathy and dominance? On the other hand, highly unequal societies (the apartheid Southern US, for example) where dehumanization is institutionalized are famous for their elaborate codes of interactional civility. Do you have any insight here?

Anonymous said...

To Dr. Gropnik, out there in the world: Here's to human moms who are not Virgins Mary! May you all feel your feelings, think your thoughts, love your loves, and develop yourselves and be changed your whole lives long. You are lagom.

pityadd said...

I'm about to actively seek therapy and my key problem is that I don't know how to open up about the things that really disturb me, feeling like I'm so different from others. Intellectually I know that's not true, and have been telling myself not to worry about being judged by a shrink. But based on these responses, I am right to worry. They seem so superficial and "normal." No dark corners for these mental health professionals. Or like one says, are they too afraid of being judged? Meh.

Anonymous said...

To "pityadd"--

No, they aren't really any more "normal" than anyone else. And they're probably just as afraid of being judged as you are. Perhaps even more so, since they're supposed to represent the bastions of mental health. Don't worry. See the therapist, just understand that they're just as flawed and human as anyone else.

Anonymous said...

For God's sake, why put every one of those on a separate page?

Anonymous said...

They are researchers working in the field of psychology, not experts in mental health.

Topsy Fair Do's said...

They probably arent even aware of their own 'blind spots' -Others are, and they are the ones who should inform these individuals about their lack of self understanding and awareness.

Another point to consider is it would actually be far too psychologically threatening for them to be truly authentic because they would run the risk of losing face amongst peers.

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