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 ...

Use it or lose it! Revision and neural pathways.

Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change its structure in response to learning new skills, and practice of old ones.  So how does this relate to students and exam revision? Simple - pathways between neurons can be strengthened over time and with repeated actions.  Students should start revising early, and remember that simple repetition – practising retrieving a memory over and over again – is the best form of consolidating the pattern and increasing the neural connections. Students should also try ...

Biological Level of Analysis made easy

This month's student blog introduced students to the belief held by neuroscientists that our brain's structure and processes are responsible, at least in part, for our behaviour. The blog post focused on the teenage brain and the arguments put forward regarding the development of the pre-frontal cortex. Please visit the OSC Psychology student blog to see the content if this interests you. Students tend to struggle a little with the BLOA, so I have developed some scaffolding exercises to help, and ...

Brains on trial – is our biology responsible for our behaviour?

This month we are taking a look at the theory behind the biological level of analysis, that there is a strong correlation, and in some cases a cause-and effect relationship, between our brain structure and activity and our behaviour.  The title of my blog post comes from an exciting site called "Brains on Trial" that it is definitely worth visiting, if only for the cool videos it contains. The title of the site refers to the theories that it is ...

Don’t just do something – stand there! The psychological benefits of procrastination.

I am making a link each month between what is on the teacher blog and what I post for the OSC student blog. Last month it was the levels of analysis, and interaction between the environment and the brain. This month it is…procrastination. The students get an upbeat TEDx talk from Vik Nithy (below), a recently graduating student on how to avoid procrastination and its damaging effects. [youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD440CY2Vs0'] The psychology talk on the student blog describes procrastination as a struggle between ...

The psychology of procrastination

By Sunday, September 1, 2013 , , , , 0

The semester/term starts soon, or has already started for those of you in the Northern hemisphere with IB exams in May. (I know that those students taking the IB Diploma exams in November have been in school a very long time, but this applies equally to you). Very soon the work will be coming in, but “Hey! Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow.” This is procrastination, and it is all about decisions – the argument in ...

The ‘Plastic’ Brain. How does our brain change in response to our cognition and environment?

Studying the brain’s neuroplasticity is the field of cognitive neuroscience, and bridges the gap between the biological level of analysis and the cognitive and sociocultural levels. See these links for fascinating studies into: children’s socio-economic status and brain structure changes (Jednoróg et al., 2012);  mirror neurons (Iacoboni, 2004); how the remaining part of the brain adapts after a childhood hemispherectomy (removal of half of the brain, Danelli et al, 2013);  and the effects of meditation and social and emotional learning ...

Levels of Analysis – what do they really mean?

Mmmm- doughnuts! An example of neuroplasticity. When confronted with a picture of junk food, people who pulled all-nighters had boosted activity in the amygdala (left), a brain structure associated with the desire to eat, and reduced activity in regions of the cortex (right), which have been tied to food evaluation. Credit: Matthew Walker et al. at http://www.sciencenews.org/view/access/id/352150/description/MMM_DOUGHNUTS Whether you are just getting ready to start your new IB Diploma Psychology course, are beginning your second year, or are midway to ...