The BBC’s Radio 4 program Mind Changers, hosted by Claudia Hammond (above), has returned with several all knew episodes dedicated to the history of twentieth century psychology. Now available to listen to online are three episodes that explore the work of James Pennebaker, Abraham Maslow, and Anna Freud, respectively. Full descriptions of these episodes follow below.
James Pennebaker and Expressive Writing
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Claudia Hammond returns with the history of psychology series examining the work of the people who have changed our understanding of the human mind. This week she meets the American social psychologist, James Pennebaker, to discuss his work on expressive writing.
Pennebaker’s ground-breaking experiment was published in 1986; he showed that simply writing about one’s emotions can significantly improve one’s health. His work revolutionised how emotions are viewed within psychology. Continue reading
Mind Changers, the BBC Radio 4 series hosted by Claudia Hammond in which she explores “the development of the science of psychology during the 20th century,” now has another new episode online. This episode, Donald Broadbent (right) and the Cocktail Party, looks at Broadbent’s development of the cocktail party effect and is described as follows,
When Donald Broadbent died in 1993 he left a legacy which still influences our understanding of how we process the complex information that is all around us and focus on what is salient to us. With his innovative dichotic listening experiments, Broadbent moved from his original filter model of selective attention to an understanding of the ‘cocktail party effect’, whereby significant information, such as our own name, intrudes on our consciousness, even when it’s embedded in auditory information we’re not apparently attending to. In the programme Claudia Hammond illustrates the point with examples of dichotic listening experiments that listeners can try themselves.By applying an information processing model to attention, Broadbent launched the cognitive revolution in psychology in Britain. As Director of the Medical Research Council’s Applied Psychology Unit from 1958 to 1974, Broadbent propagated his belief that psychology should be applied to practical problems, such as optimising human performance by the design of aircraft cockpits or nuclear reactor control rooms. He became a regular expert contributor on radio and TV, promoting psychology to the public.
Meeting psychologists who studied and worked with Broadbent – Professor Susan Gathercole of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Professors Alan Baddeley of York University and Dylan Jones and Andy Smith of Cardiff University – Claudia Hammond builds a picture of the man and his ground-breaking work, learning that noise has a far greater impact on our efficiency at work than we realize.
You can find the full audio catalogue of previous Mind Changers episodes online here and AHP’s previous posts on the series here.
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BBC Radio 4 program Mind Changers, a series hosted by Claudia Hammond in which she explores “the development of the science of psychology during the 20th century,” has just returned with new episodes. Now available online are episodes on the work of Joseph Wolpe (right) and Julian Rotter. Wolpe most famously developed and perfected the technique of systematic desensitization for the treatment of phobias, while Rotter developed the I-E scale to measure locus of control, or the degree to which individuals believe they have control over events in their lives.
You can find the full audio catalogue of previous Mind Changers episodes online here and AHP’s previous posts on the series here. Titles and descriptions of the Wolpe and Rotter episodes follow below.
Joseph Wolpe and Systematic Desensitization
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When the South African psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe, took up his post at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1965, he brought with him the treatment he’d developed for patients with phobias. Systematic Desensitization involved a lengthy process of relaxation and gradual exposure to the object of the phobia. It was known as Behaviour Therapy, with its concentration on learning a different response to a stimulus. It paid no attention to the patient’s childhood or underlying psychological experiences and was thus a radical departure from the Freudian, psychoanalytic approach that was the established method of psychiatry in the US at the time. He brought about a sea change, which sees him regularly listed as one of the top twenty most influential psychologists of the 20th century.
Claudia Hammond visits Philadelphia to meet two of Joseph Wolpe’s former colleagues, Michael Ascher and Allan Cristol to hear about the man and his work. Continue reading
The BBC Radio 4 programme Mind Changers has just released an audio podcast, Henri Tajfel’s Minimal Groups.
Tajfel’s (right) 1970s research with minimal groups aimed to uncover the minimal conditions necessary for prejudice to develop. For the purposes of the study, participants were divided into two groups based on largely irrelevant information. Although the boys assigned to each group did not know the other group members, had no contact with them, and no expectation of contact with other group members in the future they nonetheless began to identify with their group and to demonstrate a preference for the group’s other members. The findings from Tajfel’s minimal group studies were instrumental to his development, along with John Turner, of social identity theory (SIT), which holds that individuals identify with the groups to which they belong and that they have a tendency to advantage their ingroup.
The Mind Changers podcast on Tajfel’s minimal group research is described as follows:
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Henri Tajfel’s interest in identity and group prejudice was sparked by his own experiences as a Polish Jew during the Second World War. As Professor of Social Psychology at Bristol university he developed a series of experiments known as the Minimal Group Studies, the purpose of which was to establish the minimum basis on which people could be made to identify with their own group and show bias against another.
Claudia Hammond re-visits the Minimal Group Studies of 1971, where Tajfel and his collaborators got boys at a comprehensive school to view abstract paintings and then assigned them to the ‘Klee’ group or the ‘Kandinsky’ group, apparently because of the preferences they declared, but in fact entirely at random. Even though the boys didn’t know who else was allocated to their group, they consistently awarded more points to their own group than to the other. So even though who belonged to which group was meaningless, they always tended to favour their own. Continue reading
The BBC Radio 4 programme Mind Changers has just released an audio podcast, Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow Study. Mischel (left), currently Niven Professor of Humane Letters in Psychology at Columbia University, began his now famous “marshmallow experiments” in the late 1960s and 1970s. In these experiments children were offered a marshmallow or, if they would wait, two marshmallows. Whether a child could resist eating the marshmallow, and the length of time over which they could delay gratification were then recorded. These findings were then analyzed in relation to the child’s future success. The findings from Mischel’s marshmallow experiments have been influential with respect to decision-making, self-control, and “willpower” research. The Mind Changers podcast on Mischel’s research is described as follows:
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The psychologist Walter Mischel made his name with his ground-breaking book, Personality and Assessment, in 1968. He followed up with a classic experiment which is still running today.
Seeking to understand how the impulsive behaviour of his own three daughters at age 3 became increasingly regulated and planned by age 4 or 5, Mischel set up his experiment in delayed gratification at the Bing Nursery at Stanford University. Over 6 years he asked more than 300 4-year-olds to decide whether to have one marshmallow right now, or wait and get two, and he examined the cognitive processes which enabled some children to wait.
Hearing by chance how these 4-year olds were getting on in high school years later, Mischel realized that whether or not they’d been able to resist eating one marshmallow in order to get two was now showing a strong correlation with their achievements at school, and even with whether or not they were over-weight. Following the same cohort at 10-year intervals, he’s shown that those who were able to hang on for two marshmallow were less likely to drop out of college, use cocaine, or even go to prison. Continue reading
The final episode of Mind Changers’s fourth series has just been posted online. In this episode Ellen Langer (pictured right) and Judith Rodin’s 1976 Arden House study investigating the role of control in the lives of the elderly is explored. As described on the program’s website,
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When the two psychologists set up the experiment so that residents on two floors of the 360-bed home for the elderly would experience some changes in their everyday life, they had no idea that they were introducing factors which could prolong life.