Professor Trevor Robbins awarded Brain Prize 2014
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Mar 11, 2014.
Professor Hines to give Science Festival talk
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Mar 10, 2014.
Professor Nicky Clayton features in a new book celebrating Cambridge women
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Mar 03, 2014.
Inside the Animal Mind YouTube clip goes viral
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Feb 24, 2014.
Professor Usha Goswami interviewed by the Naked Scientists
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Feb 19, 2014.
Research in Japan suggests that a ‘relationship-based’ police interviewing style gets the best results
By amb206 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Feb 15, 2014.
In 1995 members of a religious cult called Aum Shinirikyo carried out a Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed two station staff and injured several hundred people. One of those questioned by the police as a member of the cult was Dr Hayashi Ikuo. During interviews, Ikuo made a voluntary decision to confess his involvement in the attack. He was later sentenced to indefinite imprisonment.
In an autobiography written in prison, Ikuo described his feelings about his interrogation by police before standing trial: “At that time, I felt reassured by the fact that I had someone who would understand my true intentions without prejudice. I thought I could trust Mr I and Mr F [police interrogators]. I made up my mind to tell them everything I knew.”
Prize-winning research undertaken in Japan by Dr Taeko Wachi, while a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, suggests that a ‘relationship-based’ interviewing style in which interrogators listen closely and attempt to form good relationships with suspects is more likely to elicit true confessions than other styles.
Dr Wachi’s research comprised three studies of attitudes to, and experiences of, police interviewing in Japan. The first study explored information on interrogation techniques gathered from almost 280 police officers. The analysis of questionnaires led to the identification of four interview styles: evidence-focused, confrontational, undifferentiated and relationship-focused.
The second study was a ‘crime experiment’ in which more than 230 members of the public took part. It was designed to reveal which of the interviewing techniques identified in the first study were most likely to elicit true confessions and prevent false confessions. Overall, 74 out of 114 ‘guilty’ participants confessed to their notional ‘crime’ but none of the ‘innocent’ participants made false confessions. Relationship-focused interviewing was most likely to elicit a confession.
The third study examined questionnaires from more than 290 offenders in 36 prisons. All of them had been convicted of serious crimes including murder, rape and kidnapping. This third study – which was administered by means of a questionnaire – was the first of its kind in Japan and thus broke new ground in terms of identifying which interviewing styles led offenders to confess.
Again, relationship-focused interviewing was particularly effective in eliciting confessions from suspects who had not decided, before interrogation, whether or not to confess their crimes or had decided to deny the allegations against them.
The research suggested that the relationship-based interviewing style has a positive effect on both police officers’ and suspects’ feelings after interrogation. Those offenders who confessed to crimes during a relationship-based interview did so as the result of internal pressures, such as “I confessed because I felt guilty about the crime”, rather than external pressures, such as “I confessed because of police pressure during the interview”.
In view of the lack of in-depth research into investigative interviewing techniques in Japan, Dr Wachi’s work makes a significant contribution to understanding the wide number of factors that affect this complex process. It should be noted, however, that most participants in the study were male.
As Dr Wachi points out, there are significant differences, as well as similarities, between the structure of criminal processes in Japan and those in Western Europe and the USA. In Japan the law allows for suspects to be held for 23 days before initiating prosecution: this maximum detention period contrasts with 24 hours (generally) in the UK, 48 hours in Hong Kong and just four hours in Australia.
It has thus been argued that interrogations play a much more important role in Japanese criminal investigations than in other countries. In recent years, several high-profile false confessions have drawn attention to the possible impact of interviewing techniques on suspects’ feelings and decisions about confessions and denials. Training of police officers in interviewing is being stepped up.
Interestingly, the Japanese public (in addition to crime victims and their families) exhibits a strong desire for offenders to talk about their criminal motives and explain their criminal acts. Interrogation meets this public interest by helping offenders to give accounts of their cases in detail.
Last month it was announced that Dr Wachi had won first place in the 2013 American Psychology-Law Society Dissertation Awards. As part of her prize she is invited to attend, and present a poster at, the AP-LS Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana in March, 2014. The AP-LS committee reviewers described her dissertation as “highly original… because of the breadth of interrogation factors it addresses”.
An impressive aspect of the research was Dr Wachi’s design and implementation of a crime experiment which was tested on a range of people recruited from the general public, widely varying in age and from a diversity of backgrounds. In contrast, previous crime experiments have used university students who tend to be from a narrow age range and educational level.
At Cambridge, Dr Wachi’s research was supervised by Professor Michael Lamb of the Department of Psychology. He said: “I was delighted to hear that Taeko had won this award. Her persuasive study was comprehensive and very significant, especially because we are increasingly aware of the risks that false confessions may lead to the conviction and incarceration of innocent people. Taeko’s findings add to the growing body of evidence that more humane rather than coercive interviewing practices are likely to elicit confessions from guilty individuals, a pattern evident in Western countries, too.”
Dr Wachi has been working for the National Research Institute of Police Science (attached to the National Police Agency, Japan) since 2005. She was able to study for a PhD at Cambridge thanks to a scholarship from the Japanese Government Long-Term Overseas Fellowship Program.
Her background gave her the advantage of an in-depth understanding of, and close working relationship with, the National Police Agency, Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office and Ministry of Justice, which enabled her to conduct the studies of police officers and prisoners.
Dr Wachi is currently conducting research into interrogations of those with learning disabilities as well as on public opinions about interviewing techniques. She intends to continue her research into criminal investigation on behalf of the National Police Agency by providing scientific findings about interrogations of various types of suspects.
For more information about this story contact Alexandra Buxton, Office of Communications, University of Cambridge, firstname.lastname@example.org, 01223 761673
Award-winning research into police interviewing techniques in Japan reveals that a ‘relationship-based’ style may be particularly effective in eliciting true confessions. The research included the first ever study of Japanese offenders’ views about police interrogation.
Ways of Seeing: Dr Simone Schnall in Living Rooms event
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Feb 05, 2014.
The eyes have it
By jfp40 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Feb 05, 2014.
While what humans do with their eyes has been well studied, we know almost nothing about whether birds communicate with members of the same species with their eyes.
The new study, published today in Biology Letters, shows that jackdaw eyes are used as a warning signal to successfully deter competitors from coming near their nest boxes.
Gabrielle Davidson of the University of Cambridge, who led the study, said: “Jackdaw eyes are very unusual. Unlike their close relatives, the rooks and crows – which have very dark eyes – jackdaw eyes are almost white and their striking pale irises are very conspicuous against their dark feathers.”
While most birds have black or dark brown eyes, bright eyes are not unknown in the avian world, and around 10% of passerines (perching birds) have coloured irises. The question Davidson wanted to answer was do jackdaws use their bright eyes to communicate with fellow jackdaws?
Just before the spring breeding season arrived last year, Davidson installed one of four different pictures in 100 jackdaw nest boxes on the outskirts of Cambridge. The pictures were either black (the control), a pair of jackdaw eyes, a pair of jackdaw eyes in a jackdaw’s face, or a jackdaw’s face with a pair of black rook eyes. She then filmed the effect the different pictures had on the birds’ behaviour.
“Jackdaws are unique among the crow family in that they nest in cavities in trees. These hollows are natural – the birds cannot excavate their own nest cavities as some woodpeckers do – so they have to compete for a limited resource. And because jackdaws nest in close proximity to each other, they fight a lot to gain the best nesting sites,” she explained. Often what initiates these fights are jackdaws approaching nest boxes that are not their own.
After analysing 40 videos of jackdaws peeking into each other’s nest boxes, she found that compared with the other nest boxes, those that contained the picture of a jackdaw with its bright eyes was much more likely to deter the birds from landing on it, and that the birds spent less time near such a nest box.
Davidson’s study is the first to show the eyes being used as a means of communication between members of the same species outside primates.
“Before now we knew very little about why some birds have brightly coloured eyes. In jackdaws, the pale eyes may function to improve their ability to defend their nest and chicks from competitors. It also raises the question of whether this is unique to jackdaws, or if other cavity nesting birds also use their eyes in a similar way,” she added.
The field research took place at the Cambridge Jackdaw Project, which was established by Dr Alex Thornton of the University of Exeter.
To see the research in action, view video below:
Researchers in Cambridge and Exeter have discovered that jackdaws use their eyes to communicate with each other – the first time this has been shown in non-primates.
Psychology at the Science Festival
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Feb 04, 2014.
Feeling powerless increases the weight of the world… literally
By fpjl2 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Feb 04, 2014.
Scientists have found that people who feel powerless actually see the world differently, and find a task to be more physically challenging than those with a greater sense of personal and social power.
Eun Hee Lee - a researcher working with Dr Simone Schnall at Cambridge’s Department of Psychology - carried out a series of tests in which volunteers were surreptitiously surveyed about their own social power, then asked to lift boxes of varying weights and guess how heavy they were. Those who felt powerless consistently perceived the weight of the boxes as much heavier than those who felt more powerful.
The study is the first demonstration that power – a ‘psychosocial’ construct relating to the control of resources – changes peoples’ perception of objects; that how you feel about your social standing in a situation can influence how you see the physical environment.
The researchers say this overestimation of weight may be an adaptive strategy when faced with a lack of resources: when in a position of powerlessness, it would be ‘advantageous’ to have an overly cautious approach to the world in order to preserve your existing limited resources.
Experiencing perceptual attributes of the world – such as the weight of objects - in an “exaggerated fashion” when feeling powerless might be symptomatic of this instinctive resource conservation.
The study is published this week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
“Although many psychological studies have been conducted on power not much was known about how power influences actual perceptual experiences in everyday life,” said lead researcher Eun Hee Lee.
“This research demonstrates that people’s social role, as indicated by a sense of social power, or a lack thereof, can change the way they see the physical environment.”
To measure a person’s sense of their own social power, Lee and Schnall conducted three separate studies – all disguised by cover stories so that participants were unaware of what was being tested.
In the first, 145 participants were asked to rank how strongly they felt a series of statements applied to them – such as “I can get people to listen to what I say” – to measure beliefs about their power in social relationships. They were then tasked with lifting a number of boxes and guessing the weight, before taking a final test to gauge their mood. Researchers found that the lower a person’s feelings of social power, the more they thought the boxes weighed.
In the second test, the researchers manipulated the sense of power by asking 41 participants to sit in either an expansive, domineering position – with one elbow on the arm of their chair and the other on the desk next to them – or a more constricting one, with hands tucked under thighs and shoulders dropped.
Prior to manipulation, most participants overestimated the weight; after manipulation, those who sat in the more powerful pose gave more accurate estimates, while those in the submissive condition continued to imagine heavier weight.
In the final test, 68 participants were asked to recall an experience in which they had felt either powerful or powerless, and then repeatedly estimate the weights of various boxes - under the guise of studying the effect of exercise on autobiographical memory. Those who focused on the powerful incident became more accurate at guessing the weight, while those recalling a powerless situation continually overestimated the heaviness of the boxes.
While previous research has shown that various physical and emotional states can influence perception of the environment – such as perceiving a hill slant to be steeper when wearing a heavy backpack, or threatening objects, such as a tarantula, appearing to be further from your face when feeling good about yourself – this is the first study to show that a sense of power can now be added to that list.
Giulio Andreotti, the former Italian Prime Minister who was nicknamed ‘Il Divo’ after the epithet for Julius Caesar, famously once said that “power tires only those who do not have it”. Lee and Schnall write that this comment is “no longer an unsubstantiated conjecture”, and that their data suggests the world of the powerless “is indeed full of heavy burdens”.
Added Lee: “Power plays a role when it is present in a given moment, but also when it comes to people’s personality. We find that personality, which determines how people interact with the social world, also shapes how people interact with the physical world.”
New research shows that the more personally and socially powerless you feel the heavier objects appear to weigh.
Dr Luke Clark to lead new gambling research centre in Canada
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Jan 30, 2014.
1st place to Taeko Wachi in the AP-LS Dissertation Awards
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Jan 28, 2014.
CSLB conducts large concept property norming study
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Jan 27, 2014.
Research gives insights on how to keep one’s New Year’s resolutions
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Jan 27, 2014.
Prof. Lorraine Tyler elected as the Sir Frederic Bartlett Lecturer 2015
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Jan 23, 2014.
BBC Two programme looks inside the minds of animals with help from Prof. Nicky Clayton
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Jan 20, 2014.
Dr Luke Clark to present opening lecture at international symposium on problem gambling
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Jan 09, 2014.
Study confirms a gene linked to Asperger Syndrome and empathy
By amb206 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Dec 17, 2013.
A study published this month in the journal Molecular Autism confirms previous research that people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) are more likely to carry specific variations in a particular gene. More strikingly, the study supports existing findings that the same gene is also linked to how much empathy typically shown by individuals in the general population.
The research was carried out by a team of researchers led by Professor Baron-Cohen at the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University. Asperger Syndrome is an autism spectrum condition. The researchers looked for sequence variations (called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) in the gene known as GABRB3 in a total of 530 adults - 118 people diagnosed with AS and 412 people without a diagnosis.
The team found that certain SNPs in GABRB3 were significantly more common in people with AS. They also discovered that additional genetic variations in the same gene were linked to scores on an empathy measure called the Empathy Quotient (EQ) in the general population.
AS is diagnosed when a person struggles with social relationships and communication, and shows unusually narrow interests and resistance to change, but has good intelligence and language skills. Most genetic studies of autistic spectrum conditions treat autism as if they are all very similar, whereas in reality there is considerable variation (e.g., in language level and intellectual ability).
Rather than studying people on the autistic condition spectrum, this new study looked only people with AS, as a well-defined subgroup of individuals within this range. The researchers examined the gene GABRB3 which regulates the functioning of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and which contains a number of SNPs that vary across the population.
The volunteers were tested for 45 SNPs within this key gene. The team had previously found that SNPs in this gene were more common in adults with AS and also showed a relationship with empathy levels and tactile sensitivity (how sensitive people are to being touched) in the general population.
Testing a new sample of volunteers who had not taken part in previous studies, the researchers found that three of the SNPs were again more common in adults with AS, and two different SNPs in the same gene were again related to empathy levels in the general population, confirming that the gene is involved in autism spectrum conditions.
Professor Baron-Cohen said: “We are excited that this study confirms that variation in GABRB3 is linked not just to AS but to individual differences in empathy in the population. Many candidate genes do not replicate across studies and across different samples, but this genetic finding seems to be a solid result. Research now needs to focus on where this gene is expressed in the brain in autism, and how it interacts with other genetic and non-genetic factors that cause AS.”
The team was co-led by Dr Bhismadev Chakrabarti from the Department of Psychology at Reading University. He commented: “Genes play an important role in autism and Asperger Syndrome. This new study adds to evidence that GABRB3 is a key gene underlying these conditions. This gene is involved in the functioning of a neurotransmitter that regulates excitation and inhibition of nerve cell activity so the research gives us vital additional information about how the brain may develop differently in people with Asperger Syndrome.”
Varun Warrier, who carried out the study as part of his graduate research at Cambridge University, added: “The most important aspect of this research is that it points to common genetic variants in GABRB3 being involved in both AS and in empathy as a dimensional trait. Although GABRB3 is not the only gene to be involved in this condition and in empathy levels, we are confident that we have identified one of the key players. We are following this up by testing how much protein GABRB3 produces in the brain in autism, since a genetic finding of this kind becomes more explanatory when we can also measure its function.”
For more information about this story contact Alexandra Buxton, Office of Communications, University of Cambridge, email@example.com 01223 761673
Scientists have confirmed that variations in a particular gene play a key role in the autism spectrum condition known as Asperger Syndrome. They have also found that variations in the same gene are also linked to differences in empathy levels in the general population.
Two Psychology papers in the top 21 most talked about articles of 2013
By Diane FitzMaurice from News. Published on Dec 16, 2013.
Assisted Reproduction and Family Development: The New Parents Study
By sj387 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Nov 01, 2013.
Family structure has changed markedly in the past few decades. Starting a family is now possible for a greater variety of intended parents due to the advances in assisted reproduction technologies (ARTs), allowing lesbian and gay parents to start families for example.
Despite the increasing numbers of couples and individuals helped by ARTs, these families have not been sufficiently represented in studies looking into how families develop. In order for policy and support to reflect the reality of life for these families, research needs to include all family forms. The science behind ARTs is developing rapidly and as such the science focusing on the psychological, social and emotional wellbeing of these families needs to keep up.
Of the extensive literature on family development conducted over the last century, comparatively little empirical focus has documented the wellbeing of same-sex parents and their children, in particular in families headed by gay dads. Studies including families with lesbian mothers have found children do not show signs of psychological maladjustment, do not have poorer peer relationships and do not show differences in gender identity. Indeed, children of lesbian mothers appear to be functioning well into adult life.
Even fewer studies have focused on gay fathers and their children. The few studies that have followed children of gay fathers have found these children did not show adverse effects, and were well adjusted.
Understanding the development and experiences of these families is important, as increasing numbers of gay men are becoming fathers. Not enough is known about the well-being of these fathers, and the development of their children. Therefore, more empirical evidence and less assumption is needed to understand the effect of gay parents on their families wellbeing and experiences to ensure the correct support is in place, if needed.
This need for empirical evidence to understand the wellbeing of parents and children following ARTs is what drives The New Parents Study, an ambitious study following families with babies 4 months old are visited at their homes, with a follow-up invitation to Cambridge University when the babies are 12 months old. Families included are those who have gay parents, where the child was born through surrogacy; families with lesbian mothers, where the child was born through Donor Insemination; and heterosexual couples where the child was born through IVF. One father involved with The New Parents Study recently spoke about why he was driven to participate and what it was like being part of the study:
“As a family helped by surrogacy we are a minority, we need studies like this which represent us and our families, at the same time knowing the research is anonymous is also really reassuring….
“Taking part was enjoyable and speaking about our experiences of becoming parents really gave us food for thought. Normally when you talk to people about your children there’s a ticking clock, most people don’t want to hear all about what you’ve been up to and how we felt about everything! The New Parents Study team were really interested in what we had to say and were empathetic to talk to.
“All in all the visit was really enjoyable and I’d really recommend any first time parents who have been helped by ARTs to get involved.”
The New Parents Study is an exciting project to work on as we are following couples who have recently become first time parents (with babies up to 4 months old), inclusive of gay, lesbian and straight couples. The study brings two groups based in Cambridge, the Applied Developmental Psychology Research Group, and the Centre for Family Research, together with groups based at the University of Paris in France and the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. All of the groups involved in the New Parents Study have yielded findings over the years that demonstrate that it is the dynamics of a family that is far more important than the family structure when we are trying to understand child wellbeing.
Another reason being involved with The New Parents Study is so exciting is that we will be able to learn more about fathers who are primary caregivers. In addition, we have the honour of seeing these families grow and develop while hearing about their family stories.
With such an ambitious project we are indebted to the on-going support and assistance we receive in reaching potential participating families, from charities, clinics, agencies and support groups.
Dr. Alice Winstanley and Dr. Kate Ellis-Davies recently attended several national and international events for ARTs, fathering and alternative families, including: the Alternative Parenting Show (London); Paternal Involvement in Pregnancy Outcomes from Preconception to First Year of Life (National Institutes of Health, Maryland, MD); New York Fertility Services (New York, NY); Surrogacy UK AGM (Warwick).
In March 2014, the Applied Developmental Psychology Research Group, alongside the Centre For Family Research, will be organising an event for National Science and Engineering Week on “What Makes A Family”, where researchers, clinicians, charities, parent groups and the general public will be able to engage in discussions on recent research into family development, and how researchers can take account of the publics interests in family development.
For further information, please contact Alice Winstanley and Kate Ellis-Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alice Winstanley and Kate Ellis-Davies, are researchers in the Applied Developmental Psychology Research Group working on The New Parents Study, a ground-breaking international project lead by Professor Michael Lamb and Professor Susan Golombok into the experiences of parents who have used assisted reproduction technologies, and the development of their children.
Imaging study shows dopamine dysfunction is not the main cause of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
By gm349 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Oct 28, 2013.
A new Cambridge study questions previous suggestions that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the result of fundamental abnormalities in dopamine transmission, and suggests that the main cause of the disorder may lie instead in structural differences in the grey matter in the brain. This landmark study, published in Brain, could significantly improve understanding of how ADHD is caused and help inform the development of treatments in the future.
The double-blind study, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge MRC/Wellcome Trust Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) and funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), found that administering methylphenidate (more commonly known as Ritalin) to healthy adult volunteers as well as those who exhibit symptoms of ADHD as adults, led to similar increases of the chemical dopamine in their brain. Both groups also had equivalent level of improvements as a result of the drug when tested on their ability to concentrate and pay attention.
Dopamine is a crucial chemical for concentration or sustained attention, working memory and motivational processes in the brain and acting as a chemical transmitter between brain cells by combining with specialised receptors on nerve cells. Ritalin works by increasing the levels of dopamine which binds to the receptors and increases the flow of communication between these cells.
By using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging techniques to measure dopamine receptors, the researchers were able to measure how Ritalin affects dopamine in patients with ADHD and people unaffected by the condition. In both groups, volunteers were given either a dose of Ritalin or a placebo pill. Researchers then analysed the results of tasks done by the volunteers which tested their ability to concentrate and pay attention over a period of time.
Patients with ADHD, who had significant loss of grey matter in the brain, as measured by magnetic resonance imaging, showed significant impairments in attentional performance compared with healthy individuals. Consistent with its therapeutic use in ADHD, Ritalin improved sustained attention performance in the patients. However, dopamine receptor levels in an area of the brain called the striatum were similar in the patients and healthy individuals. Ritalin also increased dopamine levels in the striatum to a similar degree, importantly suggesting that there was no underlying deficiency in dopamine function in the ADHD patients. Interestingly, Ritalin also improved sustained attention performance in some healthy individuals as well, and this overall ability of the drug to improve performance (with or without ADHD) was related to the increases in dopamine levels in the striatum caused by Ritalin.
Professor Barbara Sahakian who led the study at the BCNI said: “We feel these results are extremely important since they show that people who have poor concentration improve with methylphenidate (Ritalin) treatment whether they have a diagnosis of adult ADHD or not. These new findings demonstrate that poor performers, including healthy volunteers, were helped by the treatment and this improvement was related to increases in dopamine in the brain.”
Professor Trevor Robbins, co-author of the study and Director of the BCNI, said: “These findings question the previously accepted view that major abnormalities in dopamine function are the main cause of ADHD in adult patients. While the results show that Ritalin has a 'therapeutic' effect to improve performance, it does not appear to be related to fundamental underlying impairments in the dopamine system in ADHD.”
Research suggests that the main cause of the disorder may lie instead in structural differences in the grey matter in the brain.
We ask the experts: does society really care about the old and the vulnerable?
By sj387 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Oct 28, 2013.
Care of vulnerable groups is an emotive topic, often seen through the prism of crisis, scandal and rising costs. Funding is indeed a critical issue. According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, there are more than 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia: on average each one costs the economy more than £27,600 per annum. But discussions about how the ‘burden’ of care should be met, and by whom, also reveal much about our value systems and how we feel about each other. We asked three people some fundamental questions about care.
Charlie Cornish-Dale is a freelance journalist and editor. As part of his postgraduate research in social anthropology (St Catharine’s and King’s Colleges, Cambridge) he volunteered as a carer in a care home for the elderly where many of the residents had dementia. Dr Gail Ewing is a senior researcher at the Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge. After training as a nurse, she later moved into research where she has focused on palliative and end-of-life care, particularly from the perspective of unpaid carers. Dr Claire Nicholl is Consultant Physician in Medicine for the Elderly at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. She is a practising clinician and advises on the interface between primary and secondary care as a champion for older people's services.
How do we think about care – and could we think differently?
Charlie Cornish-Dale: As someone trained to think as an anthropologist, I would say that care is a fundamental aspect of human relationships and of societies more generally. Care is something we all must do for each other at some time, through pregnancy, childhood, illness, disability and old age. It’s not something which happens only in institutions; care did not suddenly become a concern with the arrival of the care home. Kinship is care: whether we are brought up in an archetypal nuclear family or as part of an extended lineage or clan, we have obligations and duties towards defined groups of relations (sometimes even including the dead), which we must learn to fulfil. In talking about obligations and duties, we are, of course, entering the realm of ethics.
As different societies think about and do ethics in different ways, so it is with care. But what we think about care, and how we care, has changed, as our own society has changed, over a span of many centuries. The progress of individualism has profoundly changed the way society is organised and with it the structures — kin-based, religious and economic —for organising care. The celebrated anthropologist, Alan MacFarlane, in The Origins of English Individualism, traces individualism back to the 13th century, by which time England, unlike other medieval nations, already had a social structure based around the unit of the nuclear family; this, he claims, was a prerequisite for England’s emergence as the first capitalist industrial power, allowing for rapid industrialisation and urbanisation.
Gail Ewing: Care is part of everyday life for most people; whereby we care about others, not just care for them. From day to day, care is the practical stuff we do for each other as the result of our emotional bonds. We’re cared for within our families and we go on to care for our families. When our children are young we care for them in a hands-on way but as they grow up we move out of that physical sphere of caring. There are, of course, exceptions: some people need life-long care. When care is mentioned, our first thought is care of the elderly – but there are other groups who need care too. When someone develops a long-term condition, he or she may need increasing care over many years. Cancer can progress rapidly, in which case family members find themselves thrown into a caring situation with no preparation. Care is something many people find themselves doing to varying degrees.
Claire Nicholl: I chose to specialise in medicine for the elderly because of the huge variety it offers you as a physician in terms of a career. Most of the time, I absolutely love my job: I now work mainly on the wards and in outpatients clinics, I teach student doctors and train and examine postgraduate doctors. I ‘m also Trust co-lead for dementia services. I see lots of elderly frail people; each has different needs and often there is a chance to make a real difference to their lives. The negative media about the NHS, which I hear when I switch on the car radio, is depressing. Some terrible things have happened and urgently need addressing. But we mustn’t lose sight of the excellent work that goes on or launch an attack on the thousands of people who work in caring roles.
Nevertheless, I do feel that as a society we have moved backwards in terms of how we look out for each other. We tend to stand back in situations where in the past we might have got involved in reaching out to someone in need: if a child falls over we feel nervous about helping them up in case we are accused of touching them inappropriately. In many communities there’s been a loss of reciprocity – the idea of people coming together to help each other. On a more positive note, many of the elderly people I meet do have wonderful families and neighbours.
In terms of what the state does to look after people, there’s been a rise in public expectations of what the NHS can provide. For example, people who experience infertility, now expect to have IVF treatment into their 40s; people diagnosed with cancer want access to the best drugs and treatment which can be very expensive for very small benefits. The NHS doesn’t talk about rationing healthcare, it talks about prioritising – but in effect there’s a finite pot of money and it has to make decisions about who gets what and how much.
Who should be responsible for care?
CCD: What’s interesting is how we, in the west, categorise people and treat them accordingly, and, in particular, how we order lives into distinct stages, each having its own distinct expectations, responsibilities and mode of experience. This affects not only how we experience and understand our own lives but also how we treat others and, in turn, are treated by them. But our categories aren’t the only way of ordering a life. One of my favourite books in anthropology is No Aging in India, by Lawrence Cohen. Cohen considers the idea that, until very recently, there wasn’t such a thing as ageing in India. This might sound like post-modern nonsense; but what he means is that there wasn’t “ageing” as a distinct stage of life, as an irredeemable descent towards death in the way that we understand it. The elderly weren’t sent to liminal environments away from everybody else, but remained a central part of their communities.
It would be a typically anthropological gesture to say there is no ‘natural’ way to care; that there are many possible dispensations for caring for children, the vulnerable, the ill and the elderly, and that these are demonstrated by different cultures. This is all well and good, but it tells us little about what we should do in this, our, situation, other than that we shouldn’t believe our way is or was in any way inevitable. Cohen’s book is provocative, but it isn’t a guide in any meaningful sense. We have very specific problems. For instance, I worry that the terms of the care debate are solely economic. The ‘burden of care’ is always monetary, never moral. But the question of responsibility is a moral question. We have the resources to have a moral debate, but lack faith in them. All too often, moral debate is silenced by somebody who says, “Well, that’s just your opinion”, the implication being that moral opinions are just subjective; we feel confident when we talk about facts, because they have ‘substance’ we can get our teeth into, but we don’t feel the same about values.
GE: Historically, care has been something that families undertake and, when it’s good and families are well supported, nothing can substitute this kind of care. It’s always been the case that most carers - both unpaid and paid – are women. When larger numbers of women spent their lives at home rather than the workplace, care was something they built into their other activities. But families have changed: most women have jobs as well as family responsibilities and they find themselves juggling their roles. Despite these changes, women undertake the overwhelming responsibility of care. And it’s women who more often than men find themselves alone and needing care at the end of life.
CN: As Gail says, care falls largely to women, whether they are paid or unpaid. And in both these cases, women are generally juggling a number of roles. Families are often geographically dispersed and women are likely to be working. So women face all these pressures. Paid carers get minimal training, their work is low status and poorly paid: yet they work they do is demanding, both mentally and physically, and they are in roles that carry a lot of personal responsibility. This isn’t something easy to fix because for people paying for care at home, or for a place in a home, the costs are already high. Those people paying for places in care homes are effectively subsidising the care of those in the same homes who are paid for by their local authorities. So society does face some really big challenges in this respect – and there are certainly no easy answers. And the pressures on families, and on the NHS and other services, are inevitably going to get greater.
Can caring be taught?
CCD: My research focused precisely on the question of learning to care. One doesn’t just walk off the street into a care home and start caring: I had to shadow experienced carers as they worked and learn from them. They told me that in order to care I had to “turn off” my emotions, to dissociate doer from deed and ignore provocations from the residents. Because residents were seen as lacking the necessary stable mental state to be responsible agents, you couldn’t blame them for bad behaviour, and reproaching them would only upset them and aggravate their condition. All this might sound rather different from the official line on caring, but this is exactly what new carers were doing: learning to see the residents as being irresponsible and undeserving of blame. This account of care’s necessary work on the self comes very close to a famous philosophical account of attributing blame. In his essay Freedom and Resentment, PF Strawson argues that attributing responsibility has nothing to do with an objective measure ‘out there’ in the world, but is about the emotional stances we take towards each other.
When we see someone as irresponsible, we suspend our habitual emotional responses, adopting what he calls an “objective attitude” and making that person no longer a full player in our moral games. This was something I had difficulty doing at first, being completely unused to interacting with elderly people with dementia. I had never been in a care home before and my family has been blessed with remarkable longevity: at 94 my great-grandmother Winifred was still taking a restorative Guinness daily and leaning over the banister to pop money in the electricity meter. Though some of the residents seemed to me as close to dead as it is possible to be when alive, others were less obviously incapable, and yet their behaviour could vary quite dramatically from day to day, or even within a single day, making it unclear what to expect of them and how to respond.
GE: I trained as a nurse at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and I can clearly remember being shown by the ward sister how to bathe a patient. She demonstrated to me, by the way she went about her this task, just as much as by what she said, that washing someone was not a lowly task but something quite vital. It was an opportunity to assess the patient, observing how they were, talking to them, while the care was provided. When it came to serving meals, there was the same attention to detail: food was selected from the trolley for its suitability to individual patients. We were taught to make a note of how much patients ate and drank, and help them if they needed help. Basic nursing care was something seen as valuable and skilled. I found the example of this sister inspirational; she taught me a tremendous amount about taking a pride in your work and upholding standards of care.
As for learning to “turn off” your emotions, I think that you do need a level of professionalism but I think this can be overdone. It’s not appropriate to be cold – but on the other hand it’s not appropriate to be too matey either. Niceties such as how you address a patient – by their first name or as Mr, Mrs or Miss if that is preferred – are so important to the dignity, and self-esteem, of the patient. All these apparently small things add up to create an environment that is either caring or not.
CN: I think the ability to care generally goes back to how you were brought up – and whether you were encouraged to be kind to people and animals, to think about others, and to respect other people’s space. Communication skills can be taught and improved on through tips and strategies to raise professionalism. But it’s very hard to teach caring from scratch. The extent to which someone feels empathy, or a sense of compassion, varies from person to person. If you don’t feel empathy for the people you’re working with, and paid to look after, you really shouldn’t be working in a hands-on caring role. The reality is, however, that if you’re unskilled and looking for a job, then the jobs readily available to you are likely to be in the care sector. As for how you go about caring, your personal style, it’s also true that everyone has a different way of doing things: an approach works with one patient won’t necessarily suit another. That’s a fact of life we can’t avoid.
Is there a crisis of care?
CCD: I think how the idea of how a care crisis is framed in the media and the public imagination, is as interesting as the question of whether it actually exists or not. Clearly, the economics of care are frightening, and made even more so by the current political and economic dispensation. But we need to make sure we are asking the right questions and looking in the right places. The general idea of a “crisis” might itself be a problem, smuggling in certain assumptions which cloud our thinking or make us favour certain lines of questioning over others.
We should be alert to the fact that we seem only to have economic crises today. The care crisis is no different, being presented as an economic, not a moral, problem. Even a major study like Dementia 2010 sticks to the facts (the figures) and avoids the language of values. It’s the same in the newspapers, more or less. In a recent piece on Labour’s care policy, for instance, Polly Toynbee used the word ‘fair’ essentially to mean ‘distributed along more economically equitable lines’; she did not question whether there might be a way to care for the elderly which not only takes into account the distribution of the cost, but equally asks what they deserve and are due from their loved ones and from society.
When we do discuss morality, usually in cases of abuse by carers, what’s often emphasised is its singularity— there are only individual scandals involving individual care homes and individual carers (Winterbourne View, Mid-Staffs, Hilton Gardens, etc).The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu famously said that Watergate wasn’t a scandal, because for something to be a scandal it had to be individual or unusual; how many Watergates had there already been, and how many were there to come? American politics itself was the real scandal. He could just as easily have been talking about care today.
GE: The scale of need created by the growing elderly population has been well documented. Many paid carers working in residential homes and in the community do an exceptional job – but they receive minimal training and are rewarded by minimum wages for caring for some of the most vulnerable people in society. This doesn’t give carers – or the public at large - a good message about the importance of their role. It’s shocking that carers paid to support people in their own homes are generally not paid for the time they spend travelling between visits – and sometimes not even reimbursed for their travel costs. Some paid carers are on zero hour contracts which give them no job security. This situation urgently needs addressing.
There is another less immediately visible problem too: a crisis of individual people not recognising the situation they are in. Carers looking after family members or friends start out by providing one level of care but it often escalates so they continue to provide care with no service input – and often no knowledge of what support they could access. This can lead to cases of crisis – especially when one elderly or frail person is looking after another.
CN: I fear that this winter, and if not this winter then next winter, could be a really difficult time for the NHS. In my opinion, we have had far too much political interference and reorganisations which have led to a loss of staff morale and affected the ways in which people feel a sense of ownership of their jobs. In the case of recent scandals, which are inexcusable, most of those involved were not ‘bad people’: they were let down by the system and slipped into struggling to meet targets and jumping through hoops rather than looking at the care provided to patients for whom they were responsible. A system in which one Trust has to compete with another, and is judged on the bottom line, is not a system that is putting compassion first: it’s a system that prioritises targets over people.
Is there a solution to this crisis?
CCD: I think we need to be certain what the nature of the crisis is. There clearly are economic problems. But even if we solved the immediate economic problems— if more funding were made available for dementia research, diagnosis and treatment, for instance — then the structure of care institutions, if it remained intact, might still make abuse and mistreatment inevitable.
As long as the elderly and the vulnerable are treated as objects to be administered to, in a better or worse way, then I think the moral problem will remain. The question is whether we can find ways to allow the elderly and the vulnerable to exist actively, rather than passively, within, rather than outside, society. This is the provocative message at the heart of No Aging in India, that we don’t have to do things this way — that the elderly don’t have to be passive and that their existence and experience can be profoundly meaningful, both to themselves and to those around them. But moral questions barely register at the moment. Making them register won’t be easy.
GE: We certainly need a much better career structure for carers to encourage them to develop and move forward – the introduction of NVQs is a valuable first step and must be encouraged. Care is unpredictable by nature: this is at the crux of the challenge. As the journalist Jackie Ashley, wife of Andrew Marr, has pointed out in interviews about their experience of Andrew’s stroke and recovery, paid-for care is organised to pre-planned time slots. Andrew’s carer would arrive at 7am – but he wanted to get up at 6am which meant that when the carer arrived assistance was no longer needed. This is just a small detail but it reveals so much about a crisis facing not just one family but many others too. Jackie Ashley has also raised the question of whether family leave could be broadened beyond maternity and paternity leave to include a range of situations and scenarios. There is no substitute for quality family care – and we can strive to help families to make that care possible.
CN: Caring for the frail older people whom I see, many of whom have cognitive problems, takes a lot of time and this puts real pressure on staffing budgets. People with dementia don’t necessarily feel hungry at meal times and feeding them takes time, skill and patience. We’re now seeing an increase in the use of volunteers to undertake these tasks in hospitals. At Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Giles Wright, Voluntary Services Manager, is working on a programme to ensure that all volunteers in the hospital have basic training about dementia and those who express a particular interest in working with older people have additional training and on-going support.
There’s a lot of talk about assistive technology and how it can play a role in care. It’s a term used to describe not just devices that allow people to do things like close the curtains, switch the radio on and heat up food remotely, or ways of monitoring people at home – for example whether they are walking around and have opened the fridge – but also covers the development of robots as companions in the home, something that’s been explored in Japan. I’m sceptical about a lot of this: essentially people need people, not gadgets. Pets can provide companionship and a new development is the training of dogs. Dogs can enhance the quality of life of a person with dementia – but once again dogs need people to look after them.
With the number of very old people increasing dramatically it’s likely that attitudes to euthanasia will eventually change. At present, there’s a lot of skirting around the issue in professional circles. Many people, especially older women, tell me that they are worried about becoming a burden on their families, and are really frightened about losing their independence and dignity. These people tell me that they would like to have the choice of going to Dignitas but are concerned that when they might want to end things they will not able to make the journey.
For more information about this story contact Alex Buxton, Office of Communications, University of Cambridge, email@example.com 01223 761673
Inset images from top: Vinoth Chandar, Sceptre Publishers, Jess Golden, Magnus Franklin, Phil and Pam, Marmotte73, Melvyn Bragg
On November 1 Melvyn Bragg will talk about his book Grace and Mary at the Festival of Ideas. The novel is based on Bragg’s own bitter-sweet experience of his mother’s dementia. Looking back across three generations, it raises fundamental questions about social attitudes and how they shape our lives. Three people discuss some of the big challenges that face us.
The musical ages of modern man: how our taste in music changes over a lifetime
By fpjl2 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Oct 15, 2013.
The explosion in music consumption over the last century has made ‘what you listen to’ an important personality construct – as well as the root of many social and cultural tribes – and, for many people, their self-perception is closely associated with musical preference. We would perhaps be reluctant to admit that our taste in music alters - softens even - as we get older.
Now, a new study suggests that - while our engagement with it may decline - music stays important to us as we get older, but the music we like adapts to the particular ‘life challenges’ we face at different stages of our lives.
It would seem that, unless you die before you get old, your taste in music will probably change to meet social and psychological needs.
One theory put forward by researchers, based on the study, is that we come to music to experiment with identity and define ourselves, and then use it as a social vehicle to establish our group and find a mate, and later as a more solitary expression of our intellect, status and greater emotional understanding.
Researchers say the study is the first to “comprehensively document” the ways people engage with music “from adolescence to middle age”. The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Using data gathered from more than a quarter of a million people over a ten year period, researchers divided musical genres into five broad, “empirically derived” categories they call the MUSIC model - mellow, unpretentious, sophisticated, intense, contemporary - and plotted the patterns of preference across age-groups.
These five categories incorporate multiple genres that share common musical and psychological traits - such as loudness and complexity.
“The project started with a common conception that musical taste does not evolve after young adulthood. Most academic research to date supported this claim, but - based on other areas of psychological research and our own experiences - we were not convinced this was the case,” said Arielle Bonneville-Roussy from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, who led the study.
The study found that, unsurprisingly, the first great musical age is adolescence - defined by a short, sharp burst of ‘intense’ and the start of a steady climb of ‘contemporary’. ‘Intense’ music - such as punk and metal - peaks in adolescence and declines in early adulthood, while ‘contemporary’ music - such as pop and rap - begins a rise that plateaus until early middle age.
“Teenage years are often dominated by the need to establish identity, and music is a cheap, effective way to do this,” said Dr Jason Rentfrow, senior researcher on the study.
“Adolescents’ quest for independence often takes the shape of a juxtaposed stance to the perceived ‘status quo’, that of parents and the establishment. ‘Intense’ music, seen as aggressive, tense and characterised by loud, distorted sounds has the rebellious connotations that allow adolescents to stake a claim for the autonomy that is one of this period’s key ‘life challenges’.”
As ‘intense’ gives way to the rising tide of ‘contemporary’ and introduction of ‘mellow’ – such as electronic and R & B – in early adulthood, the next musical age emerges. These two “preference dimensions” are considered “romantic, emotionally positive and danceable,” write the researchers.
“Once people overcome the need for autonomy, the next ‘life challenge’ concerns finding love and being loved – people who appreciate this ‘you’ that has emerged,” said Rentfrow.
“What we took away from the results is that these forms of music reinforce the desire for intimacy and complement settings where people come together with the goal of establishing close relationships – parties, bars, clubs and so on.
“Whereas the first musical age is about asserting independence, the next appears to be more about gaining acceptance from others.”
As we settle down and middle age begins to creep in, the last musical age, as identified by the researchers, is dominated by ‘sophisticated’ – such as jazz and classical – and ‘unpretentious’ – such as country, folk and blues.
Researchers write that both these dimensions are seen as “positive and relaxing” - with ‘sophisticated’ indicating the complex aesthetic of high culture that could be linked to social status and perceived intellect, while ‘unpretentious’ echoes sentiments of family, love and loss – emotionally direct music that speaks to the experiences most will have had by this life stage.
“As we settle into ourselves and acquire more resources to express ourselves – career, home, family, car – music remains an extension of this, and at this stage there are aspects of wanting to promote social status, intellect and wealth that play into the increased gravitation towards ‘sophisticated’ music,” said Rentfrow, “as social standing is seen as a key ‘life challenge’ to be achieved by this point”.
“At the same time, for many this life stage is frequently exhausted by work and family, and there is a requirement for relaxing, emotive music for those rare down times that reflects the other major ‘life challenge’ of this stage – that of nurturing a family and maintaining long-term relationships, perhaps the hardest of all.”
Adds Bonneville-Roussy: “Due to our very large sample size, gathered from online forms and social media channels, we were able to find very robust age trends in musical taste. I find it fascinating to see how seemingly trivial behaviour such as music listening relates to so many psychological aspects, such as personality and age.”
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
New research charting broad shifts in changing personal music tastes during our lifetimes finds that - while it’s intrinsically linked to personality and experience - there are common music genre trends associated with key stages in a human life.
"From early childhood, I attended specialised classical music schools. Together with my school friends, I grew up with the idea that Beethoven and Debussy were cool. I was clearly an outlier. During adolescence, although I still preferred classical music, I used to listen to pop music such as the Spice girls and Madonna to please my ‘non-classical’ friends. I would go out with my friends and would shape my taste according to the latest trends I would hear.
"During adolescence, my musical preferences would change according to those of my ‘non-classical’ friends, going from teen pop to rap and R&B, and then later rock and funk. My taste for mellow, contemporary and intense music would last until I entered university, where I could freely display my true preference for classical music once and for all."
“I definitely liked loud, raw music that concerned my parents during adolescence – Rage against the Machine, Ministry, Jane’s Addiction, Beastie Boys were all staples of my teenage years. I was in a lot of bands and used to play the drums, I definitely enjoyed making serious amounts of noise!”
“I loved going to dance clubs and was very into drum and bass in early adulthood. I also really enjoyed salsa music and me and my girlfriend of the time (now my wife) would spend a lot of evenings going out dancing. I also really enjoyed a band called Phish, who specialised in extended improvised jams - great for long, late night conversations.
"I’m still a fair way off middle age! But, I can certainly see similar patterns emerging. Jazz became increasingly important to me in my twenties and thirties – particularly John Coltrane – but it’s really demanding stuff, and with a 14 month old baby things are a lot more hectic now and I don’t have so much time to invest in such rigorous music.
"Interestingly, I have noticed I’ve begun to develop more appreciation for country music. I grew up in Texas, and always hated country music and its fans – we used to call them ‘sh*tkickers’, the guys with boots and hats. But while I don’t listen to the mainstream ‘stadium’ country, certainly Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and even some types of bluegrass have become more appealing of late."
Research reveals how elephants 'see' the world
By gm349 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Aug 28, 2013.
A new study reveals that elephants are not able to recognize visual cues provided by humans but are responsive to vocal commands. These findings may directly impact protocols for future efforts to conserve elephants, which are in danger of extinction in this century due to increased poaching and human/elephant conflict.
The study, led by Dr Josh Plotnik from the University of Cambridge and founder of Think Elephants International, a not-for-profit organization that strives to promote elephant conservation through scientific research, education programming and international collaborations, was designed in partnership with and co-authored by 12-14 year-old students from a middle school in New York. It was recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
"Dogs have a great sense of smell, but appear to be able to follow human pointing as a way of finding food," said Dr Joshua Plotnik, founder and CEO of Think Elephants and a researcher at the University of Cambridge. "Perhaps elephants' sense of smell is one of their primary senses, meaning that they prefer to use it when navigating their physical world."
The research tested whether elephants could follow visual, social cues (pointing and gazing) to find food hidden in one of two buckets. The elephants failed at this task, but were able to follow vocal commands telling them which bucket contained the food. These results suggest that elephants may navigate their physical world in ways that primates and dogs, prior subjects of animal cognition studies, do not.
In the field of animal cognition, there has been considerable attention focused on how animals interact with each other and humans. Particularly, there is a lot of interest in how dogs are able to read social cues to understand what people see, know or want. Remarkably, non-human primates such as chimpanzees are not good at this, suggesting it may be that through domestication or long-term human contact, dogs have developed a capacity for following social cues provided by people. Think Elephants aimed to test elephants on this because they are a wild, non-domesticated species that, in captivity in Thailand, are in relatively constant contact with humans.
The study's findings have important implications for future protection protocols for wild elephants. According to Dr Plotnik, "If elephants are not primarily using sight to navigate their natural environment, human-elephant conflict mitigation techniques must consider what elephants' main senses are and how elephants think so that they might be attracted or deterred effectively as a situation requires.
“The loss of natural habitat, poaching for ivory, and human-elephant conflict are serious threats to the sustainability of elephants in the wild. Put simply, we will be without elephants, and many other species in the wild, in less than 50 years if the world does not act."
To mitigate this, Dr Plotnik suggests additional research on elephant behaviour and an increase in educational programming are needed, particularly in Asia where the market for ivory is so strong.
The publication of the research is the climax of a three-year endeavour to create a comprehensive middle school curriculum that brings elephants into classrooms as a way to educate young people about conservation by getting them directly involved in work with endangered species. Think Elephants' education program in NYC is a pilot that will be expanding to Thai schools later in 2013.
The students were integrally involved in the development of this study, even helping to design some of the experimental control conditions. The study was carried out at Think Elephants' field site in northern Thailand, and students participated via webcam conversation and direct web-links to the elephant camp. This shows that collaborations that include both academics and young students can be productive, informative and exciting.
According to Dr Jen Pokorny, Think Elephants' head of education programs, "We are so proud of our pilot program with East Side Middle School and hope to use this as a model for other schools. This wonderful group of students had an opportunity that very few young people have and, as a result, are now published co-authors on a significant piece of animal behaviour research.
“Think Elephants is committed to showcasing these productive, informative and exciting student collaborations, and we believe similar studies can help to change the way in which young people observe and appreciate their global environment."
Inset image: Josh Plotnik with elephants and some of the co-authors of the research
Designed with middle school students, study helps to inform better practices for protecting these endangered animals.
British Academy New Fellows 2013
By amb94 from University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology. Published on Aug 08, 2013.
Each year the Academy recognises academics for their outstanding research and work across the humanities and social sciences. It represents the counterpart to the Royal Society, which exists to serve the natural sciences.
“The humanities and social sciences celebrate the study of what it means to be human and how we relate to the world around us. They can also help us tackle many of the challenges faced in this country and the world as a whole,” Professor Lord Nicholas Stern, new President of the British Academy, said. “Our new Fellows, from across the UK and world, are world-class experts in the humanities and social sciences and can play a vital role in sustaining the Academy’s activities – helping select researchers and research projects for funding support, contributing to policy reports and speaking at the Academy’s public events.”
The distinguished individuals who join the 900-strong fellowship are:
Professor Richard Hunter, Regius Professor of Greek, Trinity College
Professor Roel Sterckx, Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilization, Clare College
Professor Hans van de Ven, Professor of Modern Chinese History, Department of East Asian Studies, Fellow at St Catharine's College
Professor Christopher Page, Professor of Medieval Music and Literature, Sidney Sussex College
Professor Gareth Stedman Jones, Director of the Centre for History and Economics, King’s College
Professor John Kerrigan, Professor of English 2000, St John’s College
Professor Eilís Ferran, Professor of Company and Securities Law & JM Keynes Fellow, St Catharine’s College
Professor Usha Goswami, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience and Director, Centre for Neuroscience in Education, Department of Psychology, St John’s College
Professor Hamid Sabourian, Professor of Economics and Game Theory, King’s College
The British Academy was established by Royal Charter in 1902. Many of Britain's most distinguished scholars in the humanities and social sciences have been involved in the life of the Academy and the roll call of past Fellows includes many of the greatest British names of the 20th century.
The Academy is also an important funding body, in receipt of Government grant-in-aid, to support individuals and intellectual resources, and enables UK researchers to work with scholars and resources in other countries, as well as attracting overseas scholars to the UK.
For more information go to http://www.britac.ac.uk
The British Academy has welcomed 9 Cambridge professors at this year’s Annual General Meeting