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.

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Prejudice as a defence against feeling bad

An interesting new study in the April edition  of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by  Professors. Jessica Tracy and Ashton-James of the  University of British Columbia has cast light on how feelings of pride link with prejudicial attitudes such as racism or homophobia.  In particular they found that people manifesting a hubristic over-blown pride are much more likely to show high levels of prejudice than those having an ordinary sense of feeling good about oneself from a more self-confident place.  The latter she calls ‘authentic pride’, which might derive from hard work and a genuine sense of achievement, and is  more likely to lead to a more compassionate and empathic attitude to others. Yet the kind of pride which is based on hubris, and presumably geared to bolstering a rather fragile sense of self-esteem, one that is more arrogant and less genuinely self-confident, can derive from asserting oneself via less savoury mechanisms such as nepotism, money or domination. Such hubristic pride suggests a form of feeling good dependent on feeling superior and diminishing others. In many ways such studies simply back up traditional psychoanalytic ideas about defensive ways of managing bad feelings and the power of projective processes as a way of getting rid of such bad feelings in oneself by making others bad. Those with more authentic pride were not only more empathic but they harboured less prejudice.

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Impulsivity in children, worries, causes and later problems

A study just published has shown that impulsivity in 3 year olds predicted the likelihood of these children growing up to be adults addicted to gambling [1]. This was a huge study of over 1,000 children who were, aged 3, given a 90 minute assessment, and assigned to various categories which described how well regulated they were. Those categorised as most under controlled were over twice as likely to be addicted to gambling in adulthood, according to interviews with nearly 1000 adults between 22 and 32 years old. Interestingly neither IQ nor even socioeconomic status was anywhere near as predictive.

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Do we want to be consumers of services?

We are living in an increasingly consumerist culture. Public sector services are often being run like private companies, alongside privatisation the profit motive is more and more central to how services are being planned and delivered. For those of us working in such services one loss is that we must increasingly turn people away on cost grounds, and sometimes even cherry-pick ‘profitable’ work. In addition colleagues in nearby organisations, with whom mutual learning and the exchange of ideas was once possible,  are now competitors in a dog eat dog world, and so opportunities for helping each other in delivering the best health or other services are threatened. Another other central agenda is that of personal choice, and public servants are frequently expected to think of those we work with as customers.

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Again, good parenting changes children’s brains and predicts better health later in life

In recent years there has been a mass of research pointing to how nurturing and attuned parenting is innoculatory for later physical as well as mental health. Three studies that have come out recently again back this up with yet more evidence.

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IQ , breast-feeding and hot housing

An interesting new study by Maria Iacovou, and colleagues from Essex and Oxford Universities, strongly suggests that babies who are fed on demand perform better academically than their counterparts who are fed according to  a strictly timed schedule. For example they scored 4 or 5 points higher on IQ tests at aged 8. This was a large-scale study of over 10,000 babies and so these results not to be sniffed at, and we might usefully speculate about why these effects were seen. An obvious answer is that babies who are fed on demand are having an experience of being sensitively attuned to, empathised with and understood, which in turn leads to developing a strong sense of agency, a belief that they have some control over their destinies and that significant others will be responsive to them. These are all effects also seen in securely attached children, who incidentally also tend to have higher IQ’s. One might assume that demand fed babies are likely to be less passive than those fed on strict schedules. They are also harder work for the parents, as this study in fact attests to, and much more emotionally demanding. The mothers who fed on demand scored lower on most of the wellbeing measures used. This is quite a conflict and another sign of how the interests of mothers and babies are by no means identical, an idea most rigorously developed by Robert Trivers’ ‘parent-offspring conflict’.

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The good in gossip and shaming

I have been wondering for a while whether we have lost as well as gained something from the way we as a society no longer do ‘shaming’ in the way some cultures have in the past. Ok we did give Murdoch a bit of a run for his money over phone-tapping and there has been some pressure on bankers, but compared to what used to happen, this is rather mild. I suspect for most if us the public shaming by shaving the heads of French women who consorted with Nazis would be seen as bad taste now. We do not tattoo people who have committee crimes or make them wear special clothes anymore. We have the police, and judges and politicians to theoretically enforce the law and what is right and wrong.

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