As 2008 draws to a close I thought it proper to reflect on what we’ve seen over the year and see what our ‘best bits’ were. It’s been a busy old time in the world of psychology culminating in the publication of a replication of Milgram that many thought would be too ethically dubious to ever get passed by an ethics committee and several guest posts appearing.
In January I wrote about Maguire’s research into the size of cab-drivers hippocampi where she used fMRI scanners to investigate the relative size of this part of the brain. Her research showed that these London cabbies did have enlarged hippocampi, but at a cost, other brain structures around it were ‘squashed’ to make room for it. This had effects on associative memory among other cognitive skills.
February was a busy month full of Love and Happiness (and some ‘unspeakable acts‘ for good measure). But among the most important questions we asked was Parental Influence: is it really their fault? With all the talk of parents being blamed for their children’s behaviour are they really to blame – apparently not. It has suggested that our behaviours are context dependent and just because we are dominant in the household doesn’t mean that this will transfer over to other parts of our lives. As if that wasn’t enough; February was the time of the year for you to MOT your corpus callosum.
Not as busy-a-month in March but still important questions being discussed: stress in the home. It seems that psychologists can’t make their mind up – in February it wasn’t the parents fault for their child’s behaviour, and this month we’re telling them to reduce stress in the home as it’s easily picked up by children exposed to it (think SLT). Also, we explored inside the human body and brain with the new Visible Body website.
April started with a shock: Universities are no longer accepting Psychology A Levels! After that had passed we could focus on the important bits – PsychBLOG’s first birthday and the launch of one of my other sites: PsychClips.co.uk. But, back to psychology – it’s what you’re all here for – my favourite article of the month had to be the Phantoms in the brain one. Phantom limbs fascinate me as they provide so much support for the thesis that pain is mediated hugely by cognitive processes. And the lets not forget about the phantom penis (and that one wasn’t an April Fools!).
May & June 2008
May and June were quiet times here at PsychBLOG as we (Mark and I) prepared and presented a lecture and workshop at the Lincoln ATP Conference – and we think it went pretty well as we have been invited back to the 2009 conference and we even did a teacher INSET. But, again, I digress. More importantly BBC Radio 4 had a cracking set of talks on famous case studies in Psychology – most notably were the one’s on Freud and the case of Kitty Genovese. And, quiet appropriately, as we move into the season of ‘New Years Resolutions’ we found that quitting smoking is aided by social facilitation and comparison – so make sure you surround yourselves with others that are doing the same!
July & August 2008
These were ‘painful’ months with discussion of pain and pain experience (plus one of my favourite youtube clips I use in teaching pain). Also, the first guest post of the year: an excellent follow up to my ‘So you want to be a psychologist‘ posts all about getting into clinical psychology – straight from a clinical psychology student himself.
As the academic year starts again we opened with news of the ongoing attempts to shock smokers into quitting. The ‘Smoking Kills’ and ‘Smokers Die Younger’ labels seem to be ignored (or maybe we’ve just habituated to them) but the government has gone one step further this time: images (and not pleasant ones). This was followed up with another wonderful guest post from Amit on Maguire and his experiences of teaching the study to his class.
October & November 2008
There was plenty to talk about in October (which made up for the complete lack of anything in November) and even more to watch with Stress: portrait of a killer – an excellent documentary that was shown in the US covering the causes and needs of stress in the real world. From documentaries to Grey’s Anatomy: can a hit American TV show actually be used to educated and promote health awareness? Apparently so! No-one went away empty handed in October with resources galore: Baron-Cohen himself defining autism in 100 (well 99 actually) words; a selection of strange stories that were used in a recent Baron-Cohen study as a control condition; and finally the Rorschach Inkblot tests were released.
We’re almost there now with the December archive. We started the month looking at the phenomenal advancements in fMRI scanning which will soon allow us to see inside the brain in ‘real time’ and what this means for learning behaviours and controlling pain. One of the biggest stories of the year was left right to the end – a chap called Berger has replicated Milgram’s original research (well it’s a semi-replication really) and found similar results (and possibly similar controversy).
So, our journey throughout the year has drawn to a close with this post – published in the final minute of 2008 (automatically through some computer wizardry as I was / am / will-be enjoying the evening in a semi-sober – or more likely rather well oiled way!). These were just some of my ‘best bits’ of the year; I’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s been written about – so if that’s whetted your appetite you could check out the full archive.
That only leaves me to bid 2008 a fond farewell and wish all my readers a very Happy and prosperous 2009. Thank you for reading and supporting the site in 2008; I hope that you continue to join me and my rants in the new year. I’m looking forward to see what it brings as PsychBLOG enters it’s third year of publication.
Signing off 2008 – Jamie :)