Recent Posts by Laura Swash

Let’s all be positive!

Positive Psychology is receiving more and more consideration by mainstream psychologists.  While traditionally psychology has focused on understanding unhappiness and dysfunction, Positive Psychology, in the words of  its founder, Martin Seligman, is the ‘scientific study of optimal human functioning aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive'.  We can all learn by knowing how some people are resilient and resourceful in the face of adversity, while others crumble. Positive Psychology was established about ten years ...

Empathy and altruism – recent evidence

Altruism is a type of prosocial behaviour.  Whereas prosocial behaviour is behaviour that helps others, altruism goes one step further - it is behaviour that helps others with no benefit to ourselves, and often at a cost to ourselves.  While some psychologists argue that there is no such thing as truly altruistic behaviour (see Schaller and Cialdini's Negative State Relief model, for example), others like Batson argue that altruism operates through empathy.  Batson's Empathy-Altruism hypothesis states that empathic concern produces ...

Tips for remembering material

We're coming up to the time of the year when students are asking their teachers, sometimes in an increasingly frantic manner, "How do I remember all of this?"  Teachers' responses don't always help calm them, as they often involve something in the nature of  "You must also focus on how to use it."  The result can be panic - so here are some tips for students (and teachers) concerning how to remember material in a meaningful way. Teach it to someone else ...

Pro-social behaviour and the bystander effect

What is pro-social behaviour?  Most of us have heard of anti-social behaviour.  This is behaviour that harms others and shows a lack of concern for their well-being.  pro-social behaviour is the opposite. It is behaviour that helps others and shows a concern for them.  Prosocial behaviour also includes altruism, which is when we help others and show a real concern for them, without any expectation of benefit for ourselves, and sometimes at a personal cost.  As a friend of mine ...

When I’ve had just one more cigarette…

New Year is the time when many smokers and heavy drinkers will resolve to give up cigarettes or alcohol. Studying addictive behaviours is part of the Health Psychology option, and is a topic of great interest to students, many of whom themselves will already be addicted to nicotine.  Attitudes to smoking and to excessive drinking have changed greatly over the years, as the dangers of addiction became apparent. See here for an insight to exactly how much advertising has altered ...

Answering the “So What?” question

A few days ago, the last wave of essays came in for marking, before I could take my winter break.  Apart from one or two essays, I found myself thinking throughout my marking, "Yes, but  So What?  Why are you referring to this study?" So here is an example to help you make your answers into true answers to the question, and not just a description of all you know on a certain topic. [Note, I am not suggesting that you have to ...

Sleep and mental health.

The BBC's All in the Mind Radio programme often details interesting examples of research that can spark your students' interest in Psychology.  Recently, the editor of the British Psychological Society appeared on the programme and outlined recent research. One of the most interesting findings from sleep researchers Putilov et al. was that we are not all either owls or larks, but there are two intermediate chronotypes.  (So far listeners to the programme have proposed "swifts" and "dodos or pelicans").  This ...

Environment and physiology – Seasonal Affective Disorder

For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, this is a highly relevant topic at this time of year. Seasonal Affective Disorder is is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons and the accompanying decrease in natural daylight.  It is a very good example of an interaction between the environment and a physiological process. This blog by Dayna Evans carries an excellent description of her suffering from SAD. Rosenthal et al (1986) summarised a series of studies and concluded ...

Interesting research for the Abnormal Psychology option

It is about this time of year that your Year 2 students and you are learning and talking about different mental disorders.  It is important to keep these  discussions relevant and up to date, and this is where the different internet resources are helpful. In What's Wrong with Empirically-Supported Treatments? clinical psychologist Rune Moelbak argues that elevating the status of  scientifically-supported treatments reduces the patient to a passive recipient of treatment.  Moelbak's article raises questions that are relevant to TOK as ...

It’s now November – time for exam preparation!

Really, it was time for revision a while ago if you are a student who is sitting IB Diploma Psychology exams on Thursday 6th and Friday 7th November.  However, a week is long enough to brush up on exam technique and plan to focus your answers effectively on the questions asked rather than writing everything you know about the topics you have studied. Feedback from the May 2014 examiners is a good place to start for tips: Paper 1 Section A (Short-answer questions) Material ...

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