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Posts archived in Abnormality


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The UK-based charity Science about Science aims to equip people to make sense about the scientific and medical claims in public discussions. Part of your study of psychology has similar aims – to teach you to make educated assessments of information presented to you.

Sense about Science gets particularly annoyed by the things said by celebrities. So every year they publish some of the claims made by people who know very little. For example the US reality TV personality Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi said: “I don’t really like the beach. I hate sharks, and the water’s all whale sperm. That’s why the ocean’s salty.” No Snooki, the ocean is not salty because of whale sperm. And Simon Cowell also made the bad science list in 2011. Read these and more here.

You might also be interested in some of their other publications, such as this one about peer review.

In the last month a report appeared in the Daily Mail entitled ‘Putting baby in nursery could raise its risk of heart disease because it sends levels of stress soaring‘. This conclusion is based on a report by Aric Sigman, a psychologist who has previously been attacked by Ben Goldacre for his bad science (see here). Sigman’s day care claims have come in for a blistering attack by Bishopblog ‘How to become a celebrity scientific expert’. It’s a great example of why we need to understand science – because it means we are less gullible.

In brief Sigman bases his conclusions on accepted research that has shown that children in day care have raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But he then assumes that such increased levels later have negative consequences. In fact some research suggests that increased cortisol levels may lead to reduced fearfulness, a positive consequence. And further, the link between cortisol and heart disease is based on studies of people over 65 so it is mistaken to assume that children with raised levels of cortisol are more at risk of heart disease. However, it’s a very appealing newspaper title and has led to lots of comments from parents on the ill effects of day care.

The moral of the story? Don’t believe all your read. Always ask questions.

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Free posters

Free posters now available from OUP to brighten your classroom – you can start teaching from this straight away or use it as a revision tool with students.

The pictures are from the new AS Visual Companion.

The sales team who visit your school should have the posters.

Or you can write directly to Fiona.mccollum@oup.com and ask for one.

Interesting range of online experiments involving bio-motion here

Guess what! Antisocial men are less likely to get married when compared to less antisocial men. Why was this hypothesis so striking, had nobody asked women whether they would prefer a more or a less antisocial partner? Anyway, this was a nicely done twin study, and it showed that antisocial behaviours are also reduced by marriage – with a positive correlation between quality of marriage and size of antisocial behaviour reduction. Interesting? Rocket science? You decide.

An Examination of Selection vs Causation via a Longitudinal Twin Design S. Alexandra Burt, PhD; M. Brent Donnellan, PhD; Mikhila N. Humbad, MA; Brian M. Hicks, PhD; Matt McGue, PhD; William G. Iacono, PhD. Does Marriage Inhibit Antisocial Behavior? Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2010;67(12):1309-1315

There’s a useful presentation on experimental design to be found here

But equally interesting is the software that has been used to produce it – you can have a play here – it’s really easy to use, and you have to agree the presentations look pretty slick..

I was wondering – this could be used for a quick class experiment: Ask one group to present information using powerpoint (i.e. in a linear fashion), ask another to present the same info using the more hierarchical prezi software, to see if the way in which information is organised affects recall in independent groups of subjects?

There really are some beautiful charts and diagrams here…. truly ‘descriptive statistics’. I can’t really do any of it justice by cramming it into a tiny blog post, but it’s well worth having a look at this venn diagram about drugs, for example. Or this interactive representation of the link between stress and work.

Many of you may not be aware that the BPS published new documents relating to ethical practice in August 2009 which you can access here. There has been quite a considerable shift of emphasis. There is now a general document ‘Code of Ethics and Conduct’ which identifies four overriding principles: respect, competence, responsibility and integrity. In conjunction with this are various ethical guidelines such as ‘Ethical principles for conducting research with human participants’ and ‘Guidelines for minimum standards of ethical approval in psychological research’. There are also guidelines for conducting research on the internet, research within the NHS, research with people who do not have the capacity to consent and research with animals.

In the document on research with human participants the following issues are discussed: consent, deception, debriefing, withdrawal from the investigation, confidentiality, protection of participants and privacy in observational research.

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Ethics

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Five unethical psychology experiments