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.

More

Chris Froome, tour de France, individualism and cooperative groups

We now know that Chris Froome is the 2nd British winner of the tour de France in as many years, an extraordinary achievement. Cycling  might not be everybody’s favourite sport but it does offer fascinating insights into the relative importance in human nature of both individualism and being a  group player. 

How often in this race did we see individuals or small groups breakaway from the main pack of riders. How often too were they clawed back by cyclists working hard for each other. These of course were cyclists who were also arch rivals yet when they needed to they pulled together. When a breakaway group did succeed and escape the peloton this was partly because the breakaway group all worked for each other, and often also because the main peloton had too many people making individual breaks rather than working together. Groups of individualists, however brilliant, will never outcompete highly cooperative groups. This is true of all team sports but also it seems of groups in human evolutionary history [1]

Continue reading
  3080 Hits
  0 Comments
3080 Hits
0 Comments

Pinker's Porkies and Views on Human Nature

Not long ago Stephen Pinker, who appeared on Desert Island Disks this week,  published a book to great acclaim called The Better Angels of Our Nature [1]. In this he argued that violent deaths had steadily been decreasing over the last few centuries. His message overall was that things are getting better, and this was a message that has pleased many people, not least those who think that the socio-economic system in which we currently live is as good as it gets.

Pinker presents in a paradoxical way. He talks and writes like a  typical left-leaning liberal but many of his ideas have a somewhat reactionary tinge. In particular his enchantment with the idea that our personalities are primarily formed by our genes has been taken to suggest, as argued  by Judy Rich-Harris [2]  who he greatly admires, that parents make very little difference to  how a child turns out. His book the Blank Slate [3] similarly took huge swipes at the idea that our personalities might be the product of our experiences,  and I think in that he set up various ‘straw men’ to easily knock down. His argument was in too many ways selective, ignoring for example the extraordinary research from epigenetics showing how genes and environment interact powerfully and that genes have different effects depending on the environment that triggers them. More importantly he ignored the massive evidence about the  powerful effect of early experiences on programming our brains and hormonal systems [4], particularly the effects of stress, anxiety, trauma and neglect, and he also ignored  the extraordinary body of research from attachment theory about the impact of early experiences.

Continue reading
  4371 Hits
  2 Comments
Recent Comments
Guest — Liz
It is so important to challenge the notion that aggression and violence are 'natural' and therefore inevitable. So thanks for offe... Read More
Monday, 01 July 2013 10:07
Guest — Simon
Interesting stuff. I don't get the impression that Pinker is suggesting something as simplistic as violence is natural or inevita... Read More
Tuesday, 09 July 2013 11:43
4371 Hits
2 Comments

Are electronic media leading to jumpy brains?

This week two good friends and an academic colleague, all of whose intellectual prowess I admire, all admitted to me with varying degrees of shamefacedness that they are reading less, they just cannot read long books, they are more easily distracted and struggle to concentrate. They and others hint at being more jumpy and restless generally, with lower boredom thresholds and not able to assiduously follow through on either tasks or trains of thought as they once could. I too find it increasingly hard to get through the books that I have been continuing to purchase at previous levels. Two though that I have read in recent weeks have confirmed much of what I and other people have been thinking about the impact of the internet and electronic media on our lives, and indeed on our very brains. These books are The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains by Nicholas Carr [1] and the equally aptly named Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other by Sherry Turkle [2].

Continue reading
  4664 Hits
  1 Comment
Tags:
Recent comment in this post
Guest — Rachel
I completely agree. As a trainee teacher I am seeing a significant increase in children with communication problems and an inabili... Read More
Saturday, 19 October 2013 05:03
4664 Hits
1 Comment

Poverty, resilience and hidden stressors

This week  it was reported that over half a million people in the UK now rely on food banks, as hunger and poverty exact a really heavy price and the recession bites deeply (click for article). This is worrying, maybe especially  alongside growing inequality,. wage freezes and a tougher climate for working people generally. We have been seeing in all reports a consistent rise in mental health problems, suicidality and depression in countries affected by the economic crisis. 

Not everyone of course is similarly affected by poverty or poor environments, or by family conflict, violent communities or even abuse or neglect.  There has been a lot of government and other research which has been trying to focus on what they call resilience factors, and why some people seemingly come through such situations less affected than others. 

Continue reading
  2411 Hits
  0 Comments
2411 Hits
0 Comments

Psychopaths, brains, childhoods and society

This Sunday’s observer had 4 pages devoted to the research and thinking of Adrian Raine, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the foremost researchers on the brain and psychopaths. The article asks many important questions about what gives rise to psychopaths, and is critical of the idea that nurture (such as childhood trauma or poverty) causes this. His new book, the Anatomy of Violence [1], also has in its title, the Biological Roots of Crime, and the guardian article was titled 'How to spot a murderers' brain (click for article) . It is the implications of this that worry me.

Continue reading
  7105 Hits
  1 Comment
Recent comment in this post
Guest — Deborah Marks
Thank you for this excellent article, which I will be drawing to the attention of my CDR students on the Psychoanalytic Observatio... Read More
Thursday, 16 May 2013 08:14
7105 Hits
1 Comment

ADHD, and good and bad attention

This week’s New York Times had an interesting piece about wandering minds. It noted that there seems to be a huge diminishment in the capacity to pay attention, concentrate and focus. Mindfulness quite rightly was mentioned as something that helps and once again things were said about the increasing speed of modern society, the rushing and short attention spans and the inability to step out of the whirlwind to reflect and be thoughtful.

Continue reading
  2430 Hits
  0 Comments
2430 Hits
0 Comments