A very active tutorial for psychology

Saturday saw the first of the tutorials for DES212 and, as is the norm for this course, was a face to face tutorial.

Not only are there face to face tutorials but there are lots of them as the three tutors are operating a cluster tutorial system which means that they are each covering different topics and essentially there are almost three times the usual number to go to. So, instead of a gap of six weeks or so, the next one is next week and by a different tutor on a different topic.

Attendance was a bit low considering the cluster group but six was a good number for the session giving us each quite a high level of attention yet avoiding that “on the spot” feeling when the group is too small. With the session being largely on the scientific method we had quite a thought provoking exercise on how we might develop an experimental study. The small group size allowed the tutor to pull out a number of issues from our different approaches to the task and he knit that very neatly into the overall session. As usual with psychology, the gender balance was very distorted with five women and me.

Next up was a longer session stemming from a short exercise but moving on to cover in some detail how we should approach the argument in the essay in our first assignment. To incorporate all the suggestions would be quite a major undertaking but by spinning it out over several weeks,
I hope to at least attempt to do that.

Style-wise, I was very impressed at the breadth and depth of knowledge of the tutor and the apparent ease with which he incorporated our work within the tutorial. Moreover, he kept going at quite a pace for the entire time.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Exploring Psychology DSE212 Identities and diversities

Although the course texts themselves aren’t overly massive, there are a number of other resources that look like they could take the workload up a fair bit (e.g. the workbook and SPSS) so I’m making an early start on revision for the course with a view to produce a version of my ED209 style of notes as I go along. I’ll be producing a PDF version of these notes in due course.

The exam will be asking for definitions of what are listed as key topics throughout the books and I’ve highlighted those in the notes. As with ED209, my aim is to produce an average of about a page of so of notes for each chapter i.e. something that is of a useful size for revision.

Chapter 1, Identities and diversities, runs to 44 pages and is partly an introduction to psychology and the social sciences and partly a proper start on the course itself following the introductory chapter which is essentially a whistle-stop tour of 21st century psychology and how the subject got to this point. The essay in TMA1 is based around this area of the field, in particular asking how social identify theory and social constructionism describe identity and consequently these notes will probably be a bit better for those two topics.

The chapter starts off with how one might find out what someone considers their own identity to be and introduces the Twenty Statements Test in which participants are given 12 minutes to write 20 statements about themselves. The categories which people provide to this fall into a range of categories including characteristics (e.g. gender), social roles, personality, interests and tastes, attitudes and current state (e.g. “I am tired”). Although it’s very popular it has the downsides that only answers that come to mind and there are many things that only get mentioned when they go wrong (e.g. disabilities).

Moving on to embodiment it considers the changes that can be made in our identify in terms of clothing, body building, plastic surgery, and brain damage and the changes that this can make to our identity. In terms of clothing it mentions group identities formed by similar clothing. Disability receives its first mention in the context of the social model of disability which states that the consequences of disability aren’t purely down to the biology but rather due to social limitations e.g. buildings requiring legs to access rather than being wheelchair accessible.

Understanding personal identity introduces several theories notably the psychosocial theory of Erikson which links the aspects of psychological identity social identify and in particular our core identity which is literally what is at our core, what makes us “us” and runs throughout the other identities that we may have in different contexts i.e. our core values and beliefs. Erikson, working with WW2 veterans saw identify being created by way of resolving conflicts that arise throughout our lives. Notably, these conflicts arose in adolescence when typically we are involved in negotiations with others with a psychosocial moratorium period where we are trying our various social roles which eventually gets us through our identity crisis but, if we do not establish a solid identity at that point can lead to a drifting identity involving role diffusion. During this period we can become identified as part of various groups which can give rise to conflict with those outside our group. Marcia went on to develop the Identitity Status Interview which is a semi-structured interview that explores the commitments and crises that people have at various stages of their lives, identifying identity diffusion (low commitment, low exploration), identity foreclosure (high commitment, low exploration), moratorium (low commitment, high exploration) and identity achievement (high commitment, high exploration).

Moving on, we come to Social Identity Theory which considers how people come to be identified with some groups and not others. This addresses the limitations of the Erikson/Marcia approach in that 1) they considered the personal & social identities linked yet their theories treated them separately and 2) they didn’t consider the large-scale groupings such as race/gender/etc. Yet again, this arose out of WW2 but looking at the Holocaust rather than veterans. This considers personal (e.g. parent/child) and social identity (e.g. man/woman, black/white) to be separate with a social group being made up of people who shared a common identification. This led to the concept that you needed to both know who you are and also who you are not. His approach used experimentally established groups generating concepts such as the ingroup, outgroup and minimal group (the minimum conditions required for the group to form which, perhaps surprisingly, created conflict even in groups decided by the toss of a coin). Notably, there was discrimination in favour of the ingroup even when there was no benefit in doing so. Elliott (1968) used the blue eye/brown eye categorisation in a class setting as a segregation demonstration.

The third identify theory is social constuction does not have a single originator and considers that our identities are artificial constructions between ourselves and others that we meet in social situations. It recognises that a single individual can have conflicting identities e.g. one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist and, of course, these identifies can change with time. Moreover, how we describe ourselves in our life stories changes over time and different cultures will reflect different identity constructs (e.g. collectivism vs individualism). These identities can even change for different audiences that we are telling our stories to i.e. we can have multiple, potentially conflicting, identities at the same time (e.g. Judge Thomas was black, a man and conservative).

So how do these theories cope with explanations of disabilities? There’s the issue of calling people disabled vs calling them people with a disability for a start. Erikson/Marcia with their core identity would highlight the profound change in identity that can happen with someone who becomes disabled i.e. they have suddenly changed identity to a disabled person thud provoking an identify crisis. SIT and social construction allow more for changing identities as one goes through life e.g. in a special school, autism isn’t a particular identity if many of the children are autistic.

For the exam, the key topics for this chapter are highlighted above and are:

  • Social identity theory (SIT)
  • Social constructionism
  • Minimal group
  • Embodiment
  • Core identity

Next up is Evolutionary Psychology which, all being well, will be available in a week or so.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Living with Schizophrenia

The BPS runs a public lecture in connection with Mental Health Day which this year was last Friday and, as always, it’s fascinating.

This year kicked off with an interesting lecture on preventing psychosis by trying to identify At Risk Mental states before psychosis actually develops which seems a very sensible approach. So far it’s not been entirely successful or rather has apparently not been as successful as they would like. Among many problems in the area is that having an at risk mental state does not guarantee that you’ll go on to develop psychosis but combine that with an environment where you are exposed to other psychotic individuals (e.g. in the family) and it’s a lot more likely. Also, there’s the “problem” that once they’ve identified people at risk, they tend to go directly to interventions and therefore in a number of cases they’re succeeding by stopping the psychosis early (and stopping it early is key). So, overall, the direct figures seem unlikely to ever look good and it would seem that it will be the statistics that’ll show the results.

Next up was a lecture looking at the impact of trauma caused by the troubles in NI on psychosis. You might think that this would be easy to identify but in practice it’s incredibly difficult for a whole range of factors. For one thing, those remaining in the troubled areas ended up getting a lot of community support and solidarity so tended to have less in the way of psychosis than you would expect. In contrast, those who moved out of those areas had more psychosis apparently due to the upheaval and the lack of cohesion in the communities in which they ended up.

They finished with two lectures by people who have experienced psychosis directly. The first lady gave quite a moving talk on how not accepting that she had a psychosis made life much more difficult for her and her family than it might have been if she had acknowledged that she was bipolar at the start. To me though, it was the final talk that was by far the most impressive. It was by a guy who frankly would have been considered a total psycho but I think that it would be unusual if he’d not reached that point given the childhood experiences that he had to work through. However, he did work through those experiences and was lucky enough to eventually get proper treatment for his illness which is keeping his psychosis at bay and seems to have eliminated his former (understandable) tendencies to violence. He showed very clearly that early diagnosis is a major advantage not only to the psychotic individual but to those that they come in contact with.



Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The 2014 Infectious Disease SK320 exam

Well, it’s all over. That’s the final exam for my Life Sciences degree too and I’m already wondering how I’ll get through life without biology to make it interesting.

The report question turned out to be a doddle and was pretty much exactly what I had expected so it was a doddle to do and my figures fitted in with it quite well too. A fairly easy 20-25% I think.

Next I did the data handling question which was entirely public health though, as usual with these questions, you could have had a good stab at it without having done the course. Based on a norovirus infection this year and looking at some trends and why school kids would catch it. Another easy 20-25% I think.

Finally there were the short answer questions. Ten from twelve and as usual from all over the course. It was easy enough to choose the first five or six and easy to eliminate two (did anyone do the two ten part ones?). In practice, there turned out to be several easy ones in my second choice group when I looked at the in more detail. I’m not so sure of the overall marks on this section which is a pity as it’s the section that largely determines the overall grade.

It felt like quite a reasonable paper apart from the two ten part questions which I suspect few will have answered.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Finding cheap hotels

We tend to book hotels 1) a little out of season 2) not much in advance and 3) that have “family” or triple rooms which has an interesting effect on the choice that’s available to us.

Booking a short period in advance tends to increase the price of course yet because we’re aiming at times slightly out of season that increase is almost cancelled out. For example, applying all three criteria we could get into the Hotel Delgi Imperatori in Rome for all of €125 a night tomorrow which is peanuts for Rome.

It’s much the same in other cities too but you need to take account of the local holidays. If you’re looking for a hotel in Barcelona for example you could get the ApartHotel Mariano Cubi for €190 tomorrow. In fact that’s not terribly good value for the simple reason that November 1st (last Thursday) was the local equivalent of a public holiday therefore the Spaniards will have taken off the Friday too and so it’s gonna be an expensive period to aim for.

Realistically you almost certainly won’t be aware of the times of the local holidays (and you should avoid UK holidays too) but it’s usually easy to spot them simply by browing one of the hotel sites. Doing that, I can easily spot the Spanish holiday because they’ve only three places available for tomorrow and, of course, the same technique works for other holiday periods.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.