Recently in Psychology Category
It was very interesting to read Jack Cohen's article on the demise of Archaeopteryx: in it he highlighted a worrying issue - that of the need for certainty in our society. All good science and scientists are in the business of 'changing their minds' - that is, continuously developing theories that are the best stories we can tell that offer the simplest description of the available evidence.
Criminal Profiling - deducing and predicting offender characteristics based on crime scenes, victims, and other evidence - is something that many people readily accept as a scientific discipline.
Seduced by a glut of high profile TV dramas that focus on crime-solving-made-possible by impossibly fast forensic techniques, unbelievablly vast and easily accessible on-line databases of personal details, and behavioural scientists dealing in the unlikely certainties of how people think and act, the "CSI generation" have been duped.
No surprise then that year after year, university degree courses that offer elements of criminology or forensic psychology prove to be very popular choices for students.
Many people are often disappointed when I tell them there is little credible evidence behind this "new" behavioural science.
News reaches us, this time from Facebook, that we cannot really cope with having more than 150 "friends" on social networking sites - any more than that number and our "networks" become meaningless and even a psychological burden. Having more than 150 "friends" causes us to feel stressed at the prospect of fighting to maintain something, anything, to keep the "friendship" going. Like a casual acquaintance we hardly know, who we may meet at a wedding, the strain of keeping the social interaction going can be excruciating.
Firstly, I have no problem with the work of the anthropologist Robin Dunbar who first published his theories about the magic 150 in 1992. He is a very nice man apparently, with lots of people claiming nice things about him. His work was preceded of course by a psychologist called Dennis Fox who published similar findings in 1985 concerning political influence. But do we really need watered-down anthropology courtesy of Facebook, to tell us that having too many friends and the responsibilities they bring, can become a burden?
I have been wondering if technology is helping us, or not. A colleague told me that using email during the day equates to about a 10 point reduction in IQ, because of the interruption and change of focus and reduced concentration time - and whilst I can't find the source to back this up, it wouldn't surprise me. Now, whether it's actually true for a younger generation, more used to technological multi-tasking, is another issue, but it's certainly an indication that technology causes problems as well as solving them.
Birmingham Science Blog, in association with the New Optimists, examines the breakthroughs, discussions and theories taking place at institutions in the West Midlands. It will look at tomorrow's world and cover biology, chemistry, physics, health, medicine, astronomy, psychology and more.