gmusic@nurturingnatures.co.uk

This blog is to critically introduce, and contextualise, new research findings from developmental research, neuroscience, attachment theory  and other areas of psychology that are topical or are likely to whet the appetite of  anyone interested. The aim is to discuss research which will feel relevant and which might even, if lucky, make a...

This blog is to critically introduce, and contextualise, new research findings from developmental research, neuroscience, attachment theory  and other areas of psychology that are topical or are likely to whet the appetite of  anyone interested. The aim is to discuss research which will feel relevant and which might even, if lucky, make a difference to how we approach our work or other areas of our lives.

More

Povery, parenting and impulsivity

This week was typical in my NHS therapy work in that just about all the cases I was involved with concerned children, mainly but not only boys, who have come from emotionally neglectful situations, but also dire poverty and very deprived environments,  and who seem to be a huge worry to professionals and other adults in their lives. It is striking how many are excluded from school, have few friends, cannot concentrate very much, have little capacity to understand their own and other people’s emotional states, and are very impulsive. Many of us in the field take this for granted now, but have struggled to both make sense of the exact mechanisms and to do enough to help with such issues.

Continue reading
  2749 Hits
  0 Comments
2749 Hits
0 Comments

The risks of the dominance of evidence based practice

A scientific study this week has been published suggesting that doctors need to trust their ‘gut feelings’ and intuitions for the sake of their patients. This study [1], published in the British Medical Journal,   looked at  the cases of nearly 4,000 children, and found that a doctor’s intuitive feeling that something is not right, even when a formal examination has found nothing wrong,  can have greater diagnostic value than relying on most symptoms and signs, when trying to spot certain illnesses.  In these cases, the probability of a serious infection decreased from 0.2 percent to 0.1 percent when gut feeling was absent. It is not always possible to work out what signals are being picked up which give rise to the alarm bells ringing, sometimes this comes from the way parents talk about the issues, sometimes from other signs. The researchers go as far as recommending that medical schools should make it clear that an “inexplicable gut feeling is an important diagnostic sign’. This is one of a number of studies which have been questioning the principles of Evidence Based Practice (EBP), and indeed another was published online this week that challenges the very epistemological foundations of EBP [2].

Continue reading
  2286 Hits
  0 Comments
2286 Hits
0 Comments

Research on the effect of the recession on mental health

We are seeing some very worrying mental health trends begin to emerge in response to the current economic situation. A recent article in the British Medical Journal  [1] published by researchers from the Universities of Liverpool, Cambridge and the London school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has found that suicide rates in the last few years have bucked the trend of the previous 20 years and have started to rise. This study interestingly looked at 93 regions of the UK and found that the areas experiencing the highest levels of unemployment were the ones where suicide rates had increased the most. For every 10% increase in unemployment there was a 1.4% increase in suicide rates, which in the UK amounted to 1000 suicides. There was even a slight improvement in areas where employment rates briefly picked up, again suggesting a causal link. The same link between unemployment and suicide rates was also found in a recent study in Finland [2].

Continue reading
  3371 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
3371 Hits
0 Comments

Empathy, feeling good and healing

Empathy and its effects have been known about for a long time now, but recently a new and very large study has illustrated this in a fascinating way. The study, a collaboration between Thomas Jefferson University and some Italian researchers, looked at  a huge sample of over 20,000 patients and 242 doctors [1]. They used a validated scale to measure empathy, a scale designed especially for use in medical settings (Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE)) which assesses levels of understanding of a patient's worries, pain, and suffering, as well as the extent of an intention to help.  They found that significantly more patients with doctors who showed high empathy had lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and indeed they had considerably fewer complications leading them to be hospitalized. There have been many smaller scale studies in recent years that have shown similar results. For example a study a few years ago found that, looking at  patients  with similar symptoms and backgrounds, those with more empathic doctors recovered from the common cold on average a day quicker, and had better immune responses [2].

Continue reading
  2680 Hits
  0 Comments
2680 Hits
0 Comments

Power, confidence and politics

Power corrupts, as the old adage goes. An interesting set of new experiments sheds some light on this.  Deb Gruenfeld had noted in personal situations just how unthinking some powerful people could be, such as the businessman sitting next to her on the plane who turned the fan away from him and towards her for the flight so she became increasingly cold. With this to spur her on she, with colleagues undertook a range of experiments to explore such  issues[1] . For example people were asked to write an essay in which either they had lots of power or very little power. They were then asked to go into another room for a further test and the instructions were on the desk. In fact also on the desks was a powerful and annoying fan.  Interestingly 69% of those who had written about having power moved the fan, but only 42% of those who wrote about being in a low power situation. Other subjects in a 2nd experiment were again asked to write an essay in which they had high or low power. They were then asked to do a few tasks, the most interesting of which was to draw a capital E on their forehead as quickly as they could. What was fascinating was that those in the high power position were nearly three times more likely to write the E in a “self-oriented” direction, compared to those in the lower power position who were more likely to write an E facing outwards so that others could read it. These are the kind of findings we have come to expect. Other studies have shown that if people randomly sit on a high or low desk, those on the higher ones tend to be more assertive. More relevantly Paul Piff had found that those with higher social class and more money tended to be not only more assertive but also less prosocial, for example less likely to give way to others in a car and more likely to cheat [2].

Continue reading
  2483 Hits
  0 Comments
2483 Hits
0 Comments

Fairness is natural but what fairness?

In an age of increasing inequality and social divide there is often a lot of speculation about what we mean by fairness and justice. A fascinating new study by Patricia Kanngiesser from the University of Bristol and Prof Felix Warneken from Harvard University has shown how fairness seems to be something of an innate human trait.[1]. This is one of a swathe of studies looking at fairness, altruism and cooperation in children in recent years. In their new study children of about  3 years old were asked to collect coins using a fishing rod alongside a puppet partner. The researchers cleverly varied the work-contribution of both partners by manipulating how many coins each partner collected. The coins could then be exchanged for rewards. Interestingly the children kept fewer stickers for themselves when they had contributed little effort than when they had contributed the most, showing that they took fairness into account.

Continue reading
  2909 Hits
  0 Comments
2909 Hits
0 Comments