Sunday, 8 August 2010

The expectations of children

So far this summer I have worked two jobs involving the care of children. One job involved a residential of looked after teens, and the other was working in a nursery for a week while completing an NVQ. Each job gave me different experiences, both of which interested me in this part of psychology further.

Now those of us who are familiar with child psychology know that the limitations of children have been defined by such influential psychologists as Piaget. Of course there are many factors in psychology which present limitations to all research, however Piaget's work gave the world of developmental psychology an insight into what is capable of a child at a certain age- therefore giving us the tools to work on a curriculum for learning.

However time has gone on and theories have been developed and therefore changing the focus of the curriculum. Despite these changes, people responsible for any development of a child should be fully aware of physical and mental potentials and should always be reaching for it (Such as the Zone of Proximal Development by Vygotsky).

When attending training for the week of work at the nursery, I was amazed by how little I felt our manager was suggesting the children could do. Yes there were things she was right about- such as their attention span, but their ability to carry out tasks were much greater than I believe she was giving them credit for. Maybe she was just being difficult for the sake of being difficult (that was kinda her character) but then that is rather limiting a child's development.

On the other hand you had a mother arrange a meeting because she was concerned that her two year old daughter wasn't learning anything at the nursery. She believed that the children her age should be doing two hours or literacy and numeracy learning and writing a day. This you could say, is a bit extreme for a two year old. The aim of the company I worked for was to develop the children through forms of play and therefore the managers thought this mothers request was absurd.

I guess my opinion is in the middle of these two. I believe our society has become quite slacked when it comes to education and more teachers are becoming non-influential and lazy.

What do you think?

Children need the encouragement of developing new skills, and if they're not encouraged than their attention span will be short and will find it less interesting in the future to independently choose learning. Much psychology has taught us how our childhood influences our adulthood and therefore our educational experience needs to be one of attainable challenges, comfortable support and social learning.

The brain is most like a sponge when younger and still developing, and therefore if people limit a child too quickly now then that person could have more significant limits in their adult life.

This lends itself to another very important point of labelling children in groups and classes. This is called the Pygmalion effect (Rosenthal 1968) where teachers were told of made up capabilities of children in their classes and then it was observed how the children falsely labelled with higher capabilities performed better in tests at the end of the experiment. These children were of the same capability and therefore the conclusion is that because a teacher believed some children to be more gifted than others, they got paid more attention too and given more appraisal for their work.

Can you see how dangerous this could be in a class at school? How this could determine the academic future of some children?
Research likes this really makes me want to be in a position as a psychologist where I can change things like that.

Any thoughts?

Till next time
Take care

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Psychology of Music (well, a small portion of it)

The Psychology of Music

Sorry that it’s been a long time since my first entry, but have been having all the drama of moving house, and of course; not having the internet.
My second blog post is inspired from quite an old issue of ‘The Psychologist’ (December 2009). It was a special issue run based on the psychology of music. I love music and love psychology and therefore why not combine the two in a blog post?
Basically the whole issue was a tonne of different articles about different aspects of this topic, so I’m just going to pick out a few bits that I found interesting for discussion.

The first article reflected very much on mood and how we use it, knowingly or unknowingly, to affect our thoughts and behaviour.
The article shone light on a correlation between rock music and self-depressing activities such as self-harming and suicidal thoughts. However, saying this, it was found that neither each of the variables (the music, or the self-depressing behaviour/thoughts) causes the other. In other words, listening to rock music doesn’t make one more likely to have suicidal thoughts or someone with suicidal thoughts may not create rock music. Therefore there must be something about the content of rock music which draws in said people. So are there a lot more factors influencing our choice in music?

Personally, I do tend to listen to music that reflects my mood- such as when feeling down and low- but I also find that I listen to music that will give me what I need psychologically at that time. Therefore I might listen to more upbeat music when wanting to feel motivated and happier and a lot of the time I find that I choose these songs by accident. I’ll be flipping through my iPod and then find that a tune appeals to me at that certain time- even if am unsure of my mood or what I want my mood to be at that time.

Or from the other scale of things; instead of picking music to compliment your mood, does listening to music sometimes completely change your frame of mind? The sound of classical music has been shown to influence more calming behaviour in not only human but also in animals. An experiment on dogs showed that when classic music was played into kennels, the dogs were more subdued, however when heavy rock music was played the dogs were more restless and barked much more often and loudly (Wells et al 2002, as cited North and Hargreaves 2009). So next time when feeling frustrated and stressed out, don’t pop on some hard hitting rock music as it’s bound to fuel your frustration further, but lay down and listen to some cool tune with a steady and slow beat.

However do you think it could be argued that by listening to rock music while in an unpleasant mood, could help the individual transfer their anger or work through it by listening to a hard tune? Or do you think that it could be too difficult to separate and leave your anger behind due to the rock music possibly prolonging it?
Who knows.

Any opinions? Comments? Do you listen to music a lot? Do you find it helpful? Frustrating? Maybe you’re amusic or tone deaf?

Take Care x

North, A.C. Hargreaves, D.J. 2009. The Power of Music. The Psychologist. UK.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


So I picked up my latest copy of 'The Psychologist'- something I hadn't yet found the time to do.

I was only a couple of pages in when a small article from a reader caught my eye. The name of the article was 'Homelessness- not just nowhere to live'. Despite it's lack of length and depth, it was something of interest to me due to personal reasons. The personal reason being my dad, who had just recently been made homeless.

I found the meaning of the article to be very true to what I have experienced. I believe that it's conclusion to be that being homeless is far beyond not having a roof over one's head. It talked about the problems of handing a homeless person an apartment, some money and concluding that the problem was fixed. Just like in medicine, if you give a patient anti-biotics to clear the symptoms but not see them through the whole treatment (so they cease to finish the whole pack) then the cause is not healed and the symptoms will soon again persist. There is no difference here in psychology. If the problem behind the behaviour is not resolved then more harm is done then good- because eventually, they will loose what has been given to them, and then it is just another thing that has slipped their grasp.

With experience with my dad, I have seen that being given money and a place to stay by government funded programs is not a solution. There is much more going on inside his head then appreciating the chance to have a roof over his head, or having money given to him to support him. He is nowhere near being able to get back into work- after being away from his profession for so many years now- and in my honest and sad opinion, he is unable to function properly in society (or at least to societal norms).

As with most people these days- his trust in counsellors and the likes is low. He most likely has something much more mental going on than his inability to handle financial situations- walk down the street, you'll probably bump into at least one person to every four that isn't good at handling their finances!

So I guess the conclusion of this first, short clog post of mine is that problems can't be delt with by throwing a little bit of fairy dust at it- but the problems of society (in this case poverty and homlesness in the UK) need to be considered further with greater care, or we can never hope to eradicate such avoidable problems.

Take care