Thursday, 3 November 2011

Psychology to the rescue

The fortnightly email version of the BPS Research Digest, first launched in 2003, has today reached its 200th issue. To mark the occasion I've asked a handful of leading psychologists to write 200 words on a time in their lives that their psychology knowledge or skills came to their rescue. Here's what they had to say:

Simon Baron-Cohen: Cycles of abuse
Vaughan Bell: Living with ambiguity
Sue Blackmore: Coping with demented patients
Paul Broks: My confession
David Buss: Derogation of competitors
Susan Fiske: Nerdy but nice
Chris French: Seeing what we want to believe
Howard Gardner: Forming a synergistic team
Emily Holmes: My inner CBT therapist
Bruce Hood: Storytelling
Brian Knutson: (anti)complementarity
Ellen Langer: Combating ageism
David Lavallee: The Zeigarnik effect
Scott Lilienfeld: The unnatural nature of scientific thinking
Elizabeth Loftus: Prestige-enhancing memory tricks
Catherine Loveday: An insurance policy
David Myers: Advocating hearing assistance technology
Tom Stafford: Avoiding bystander apathy
Robert Sternberg: Understanding love
Jon Sutton: Pride before a fall
Essi Viding: A "good enough" child-rearing environment

I'm extremely grateful to all the contributors for taking the time and having the candour to share their stories - Thank You!

Readers: Please do use comments to respond and tell the world about your own experiences of using psychology in real life.

If you enjoyed this special feature, you may also enjoy reading similar features we've published in the past, including leading psychologists on one nagging thing they still don't understand about themselves.

-Find out more about the BPS Research Digest.
-Find out more about the British Psychological Society.
-Access our monthly magazine, The Psychologist.


reneebleau said...

you do a really great job of putting together all this information - really appreciate it! thanks!

Anonymous said...


EmmaOHara said...

I really enjoyed reading these stories. Here is a story of mine:

Imagine what it would be like if a close family member, a recovering alcoholic, relapsed for the second time. Imagine that she was her perfect sober self, and then chose to enter a constant state of intoxication. Now imagine being informed that she took an overdose. How would you react?

Immediately, you would condemn her for her behaviour. Words that might enter you mind, include: selfish, thoughtless and reckless. For a brief moment, you may even wonder what it would be like to be free from the hassle. But as you wonder what life would be like without her, you will realise that that is not what you want at all. You love her and you want her to be in your live for as long as possible. You want her to be well again.

I stopped condemning her, and used psychology to understand her behaviour. I came to realise that perhaps her decision to take an overdose was selfish, thoughtless and reckless; however, this decision was made when she was under the influence of alcohol. She was not thinking clearly. In addition, logically, her decision to take an overdose made complete sense. She truly believed that she could not stop drinking and she knew how much grief she was causing. Furthermore, she decided that life would be easier for everybody else if she was not around.

At this point, the only chance we had of getting her back to her perfect sober self would be to provide support her. Support is what she received, and she has now been free from alcohol for three years.

We've all heard that famous phrase: once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. In other words, it is possible for this situation to occur again. Despite this, we will continue to support her because having her as her perfect sober self outweighs the temporary mistakes that she has made and may possibly make in the future. We know these mistakes are temporary because from experience, love and support can help one to manage mental health issues.

JKG said...

I wouldn't say that this part of psychology has saved my life but i do strongly believe that the familiarity effect is the main reason for my new workplace crush!

Loved reading the stories :)

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