Weekly Roundup 5-31-14

School: A powerful case for why drawing should be a part of every school’s curriculum. “As a primary visual language, essential for communication and expression, drawing is as important as the development of written and verbal skills. The need to understand the world through visual means would seem more acute than ever; images transcend the barriers of language, and enhance communications in an increasingly globalised world.”

Psychology: If you want to win an argument, you need to change your paradigm. Rather than view the argument as a war you need to win, try to keep sight of your goal. In essence, stop trying to win. To cite one statistic, “69% of married couples problems are perpetual. Leaving those arguments unfought does not end the relationship. Vicious must-win tactics do.”

Scholarship: A recent study by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that being ostracized at work is more harmful than being bullied. “[P]eople who claimed to have experienced ostracism were significantly more likely to report a degraded sense of workplace belonging and commitment, a stronger intention to quit their job, and a larger proportion of health problems.”

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Mind the Gap

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“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough….” Stuart Smalley, a.k.a. Al Franken.

A recent article in The Atlantic Magazine has been the topic of lots of “water cooler” chat at work lately. Titled The Confidence Gapthe article was written by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, both news reporters and co-authors of the book Womenomics. In their piece for The Atlantic, Shipman and Kay explore the persistence of a significant confidence gap between men and women. The overarching idea is that confidence matters as much, if not more, than competence in the world of work, and that women are having difficulty keeping up with their male co-workers in that regard.

It’s a lengthy piece, and well worth reading when you have the time. But what struck me the most were the statistics surrounding what happens in the workplace. For example, men are promoted more frequently than women and often paid more (a national topic currently, but differences in pay aren’t the main focus of this particular article). One of the reasons men seem to be promoted more frequently and more readily is that men ask for promotions more than women do. The authors cite research conducted by Hewlett-Packard that showed men apply for a promotion when they felt they could meet 60% of the new job’s requirements. Women didn’t apply for promotions until they felt they could meet 100% of the new job’s requirements!

Contributing to this dynamic is the tendency for men to overestimate their abilities on a variety of tasks, and for women to underestimate their abilities…even though their actual performance does not differ in quality. Another contributing factor is that women are much harder on themselves when they make a mistake in a work setting; women tend to ruminate on their mistakes, which in turn erodes confidence. In contrast, when men feel self-doubt they move forward anyway; they don’t let it stop them from doing what they want to do. And in studies with groups of undergraduate students, those who displayed the most confidence were rated more highly by their peers than those who displayed the most competence. In other words, it’s not the smartest person in the room who is admired, it’s the person who is most confident.

This made me think of Al Franken, the comedian who became a politician. For roughly 30 years, Franken worked as a writer, performer, and comedian. Then, at some point he decided he wanted to serve in public office so he ran for the senate race in his home state of Minnesota and won. If he had waited until he felt 100% qualified to run for public office (i.e. to ask for that promotion), do you think he would ever have taken that chance? Probably not. Mr. Franken is just one example, but he’s the man who brought us Stuart Smalley’s self-affirmations and it sounds like some women could use more self-affirmation in the workplace.

Smalley’s mantra was: I’m good enough,  I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me. According to Shipman and Kay, worrying too much if people like you is a potential pitfall for women. So I’m going to revise the mantra just a little bit to I’m good enough and I’m smart enough. If more women simply told themselves that, perhaps the confidence gap would be on its way to closing.

 

Weekly Round Up 5-17-14

Schooling: With graduation just around the corner for Ed.S. candidates nationwide, here’s a Beginner’s Guide to Repaying Student Loans.

Psychology: A report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nationally, approximately 10,000 toddlers aged 2 to 3 years old are being diagnosed with A.D.H.D. and subsequently prescribed powerful medications to treat it. The CDC, along with many doctors, say this is a big problem for many reasons. One reason is that A.D.H.D. medications are not approved for children under 4, and another is that hyperactivity and impulsivity are developmentally normal for that age group. Additionally, there are “very few” studies documenting the long-term effects of using such medications in very young children.

Scholarship: An educational intervention is tested and comes up short. Phonomena, an academic intervention that is supposed to help children “identify word sounds,” says it has research that proves its effectiveness. Lorna Halliday of the University College of London tried to replicate the successful results and found she could not. Putting aside the fact that the initial (successful) research was conducted by the man who developed Phonomena, David Moore of The University of Oxford UK, it seems that how a study structures its control group has a huge effect on results.

If we are to understand the true “evidence-based” effectiveness of the academic interventions we use as school psychologists, we should pay close attention to how the studies backing the interventions were conducted.

Children’s Choice Book Awards Announced

This year’s winners of the annual Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards were announced at the seventh annual Children’s Book Council gala in New York last night. What I like about these awards are that the children vote for their favorites themselves, so this list is truly a reflection of what our nation’s kids like to read!

“The Children’s Book Council’s vetting process ensures that voting is done by children and teens, or submitted from classroom ballot boxes, they said.”

Here are the top winners in each category (click on thumbnails for more information):

K-2nd grade Book of the Year:
The Day The Crayons Quit
by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

Crayons

 

 

 

 

3rd-4th grade Book of the Year:
Bugs in My Hair!
by David Shannon.

Bugs in Hair

 

 

 

 

5th-6th grade Book of the Year:
National Geographic Kids Myths Busted!
by Emily Krieger, illustrated by Tom Nick Cocotos.

Myths Busted

 

 

 

 

Teens Book of the Year:
Allegiant
by Veronica Roth.

Allegiant

 

 

 

 

Illustrator of the Year:
Grace Lee
Sofia the First: The Floating Palace.

Sofia First

 

 

 

 

Author of the Year:
Rush Limbaugh
Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans.

Rush Revere

The Problem of Perpetual Cynicism

Drawing by Henry Marks.

But what is it? Drawing by Henry Marks.

A recent opinion piece in the New York Times, written by the president of Wesleyan University Michael S. Roth, points out something disturbing that seems to have infected our youth: A type of perpetual cynicism born of teaching students to think critically about their world, but not following up with teaching them to also find meaning in it.

Mr. Roth suggests that the traditional liberal arts goal of teaching critical thinking has devolved into something focused too much on the critical, and not enough on the thinking. It starts when professors teach students how to tear apart written texts, as if being critical (i.e. cynical) were the sole purpose and pursuit of education.

Yes, there’s a certain satisfaction in being critical of our authors, but isn’t it more interesting to put ourselves in a frame of mind to find inspiration in them?…Our best college students are very good at being critical. In fact being smart, for many, means being critical. 

And it continues when students assume the role of distant and disdainful commentator, one step removed from the object of their scrutiny. The sad result is that these students have come to believe intelligence reveals itself in their ability to describe everything that is wrong with a written work, but nothing that is right.

The inquirer has taken the guise of the sophisticated (often ironic) spectator, rather than the messy participant in continuing experiments or even the reverent beholder of great cultural achievements.

Mr. Roth gives the example of having to ask his students to “put their devices away” when he shows them movies in class. As a former film studies major, I find this especially distressing. When I was in school, we read essay upon essay about film’s transformative power, largely related to the obvious analogies between dreaming and watching a movie. But to feel cinema’s power in that way, you have to give yourself over to the experience. In other words, you have to take emotional and intellectual risks. From what Mr. Roth describes, today’s students prefer their culture served cold, and at arm’s length.

As debunkers, [today’s students] contribute to a cultural climate that has little tolerance for finding or making meaning — a culture whose intellectuals and cultural commentators get “liked” by showing that somebody else just can’t be believed. But this cynicism is no achievement.

I agree with Mr. Roth that cynicism is no achievement. And, if his assertions about modern-day students’ lack of interest in being inspired by art and culture and thought are true, then my next question would be, where did they learn to take such a cynical view of their world? Is this an effect of our modern culture, which some call corrosive (although, really, don’t those voices erupt in every generation)? The inevitable aftermath of postmodernism? The result of education trends going back to the 1960’s, when nearly everything about higher education was called into question? Maybe Mr. Roth will write a follow-up piece in which he teases apart the roots of the problem he has identified. I’d be interested in his thoughts.

Further exploration:

Books

FlowFlow. “Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famous investigations of “optimal experience” have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. In this new edition of his groundbreaking classic work, Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.”

100 ObjectsA History of the World in 100 Objects. “When did people first start to wear jewelry or play music? When were cows domesticated and why do we feed their milk to our children? Where were the first cities and what made them succeed? Who invented math-or came up with money? The history of humanity is a history of invention and innovation, as we have continually created new items to use, to admire, or to leave our mark on the world. In this original and thought-provoking book, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, has selected one hundred man-made artifacts, each of which gives us an intimate glimpse of an unexpected turning point in human civilization. A History of the World in 100 Objects stretches back two million years and covers the globe. From the very first hand axe to the ubiquitous credit card, each item has a story to tell; together they relate the larger history of mankind-revealing who we are by looking at what we have made.”

Articles

Technology: Myth of Multitasking.  “[T]here is no such thing as multitasking —  at least not the way you may think of it. The fact is that multitasking, as most people understand it, is a myth that has been promulgated by the “technological-industrial complex” to make overly scheduled and stressed-out people feel productive and efficient. 

 

Positive Connections

Here is a story about a wonderful use of technology to bring people together from across the world. A pilot project started by a CNA language school in Brazil linked their students with older Americans living in a retirement home outside Chicago:

“It’s such a great, simple idea: Young Brazilians want to learn English. Elderly Americans living in retirement homes just want someone to talk to. Why not connect them?”

The students conducted live chats with the residents of the retirement home in order to practice conversational English. The chats were recorded, and the videos then uploaded to a private YouTube account for the CNA teachers to review. The students get the opportunity to practice their English, and the retirement home residents essentially receive a beneficial (even therapeutic?) intervention – all with little-to-no-cost for all involved. That’s what I call upside!

Census data tells us that in 2010, the United States recorded the greatest number and proportion of people age 65 or older “in all of decennial census history.” By 2050, a full 20% of the U.S. population will be comprised of people 65 or older. Considering some of the risk factors for the elderly, including suicide, abuse & neglect, and loneliness, the possibility of linking older people with younger people seems to have great potential. The cost is so low, and the reward is potentially so high. Score one for modern technology, and the Internet that connects us all.

Reboot

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Hello, all! I cannot believe it has been nearly a literal calendar year since my last post. Where to begin? The long story short is that I’ve been immersed in a full-time internship and my final graduate courses; both have taken up most of my time and energy. And, to be honest, I also had questions about whether or not I should be blogging while working as an intern. But now that my year is wrapping up, I am happy to say that I am rebooting the blog and look forward to getting it rolling again!

It’s going to take me a little while to catch up. For one thing, I have an inbox full of emails to respond to: High school students asking for advice, people wanting to reference content on the blog, graduate students with questions about Ed.S. programs, and a special offer for a new joint cream that is “revolutionary” (although I have my doubts about that last one). And for another thing, there have been so many exciting developments in all three fields I am passionate about: Schools, Psychology, and Scholarship. The Common Core alone is a subject I could take a month to catch up on here, and it touches on every single topic! So in the meantime, please be patient with me. I promise I WILL reply to every email I have neglected the past few months.

Welcome back, and stay tuned. And, as always, thank you for your interest.

Weekly Roundup 5-12-13

Programming note: I’m pre-empting the usual WR format in order to focus on a sort of battle royale brewing between the fields of psychology and psychiatry at the moment. Spurred by the impending release of the DSM-5, “statements” are flying. Today I’m only posting on the controversy and discussion about DSM-5, which is coming out on May 22.

Psychology: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) issues a statement in which it withdraws its support of the DSM-5.

Psychology: The head of the DSM task force, psychiatrist David Kupfer, responds to NIMH’s statement.

Psychology: The British Psychological Society is preparing a statement challenging the biomedical model upon which psychiatry is based. (The roots of this can be found in a 2011 statement issued by The British Psychological Society in which it detailed, point by point (a.k.a. proposed disorder by proposed disorder), its objections to the overall paradigm embedded in the development of the DSM-5).

Psychology: An “array” of books slated for release this month launch an all-out assault on the DSM.

Psychology: Dr. Thomas Insel, director of NIMH, says that the DSM is “out of touch” with science. He says that the DSM’s continuing focus on symptoms rather than causes of mental disorders has created “a scientific nightmare.”

Psychology: But, none of this really matters because psychiatrists won’t read the new DSM anyway.

Weekly Roundup 5-5-13

School: A pretty convincing argument about what’s wrong with American education, with suggestions for how to start fixing it.

And…a pretty convincing argument that American education is doing quite well, thank you very much, especially when compared with the rest of the world.

Psychology: Despite the recent focus on deaths resulting from mass shootings, exponentially more people die each year from suicide. In addition, suicide rates in the U.S. have spiked in recent years. Currently more people die annually from suicide than car accidents – a shocking statistic. When you look a little more closely at the numbers, men are by far the largest group to die by suicide; look even closer and you see it’s middle-aged men. Even worse, some experts think suicide is “vastly under-reported” (for a variety of reasons).

This subject has clearly touched a nerve, there are currently 968 comments on the NY Times article about the spike in suicide rates. I’ve read through many of them, and it’s quite hard; a lot of very sad stories are shared. But someone pointed out that if women were killing themselves at the rate men are, it would be a national emergency. I think that’s an excellent point. Is it time we sounded the alarm for this growing crisis affecting men’s mental health?!

Scholarship: I recently discovered Retraction Watch – a blog that tracks scientific articles that are either flagged for concern or have been retracted for a variety of reasons. It’s a little like reading a gossip column about scientists (check out the most retracted scientist of all time! Read about the scientist being investigated for embezzlement! This scientist threatened to sue Retraction Watch!) Be warned: once you start thumbing through the posts, it’s kind of hard to stop!

The Problem with Selective Selection

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Back in January, Peta Pixel shared a series of photos from Infinity Imagined that compared images of cities at night as seen from the International Space Station with neurons imaged with fluorescence microscopy. The similarities are striking and upon first blush, quite compelling.

But if you think about it, these are an excellent example of confirmation bias: finding correlation where you look for it. For every “match” between a city and a neuron, there must be many non-matches that were deliberately set aside; pictures of cities that didn’t fit the hypothesis. This kind of selective thinking occurs in many areas of life – astrologers and numerologists, for example, count on their audience remembering the “predictions” that came true while conveniently forgetting the vast majority that did not.

Lately there has been an uptick in negative press surrounding researchers in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and sociology. They are accused of regularly engaging in a form of selective thinking by bending data to reach desired conclusions. Some are even calling it a “mini crisis.” The accusations range from double-dipping data, to using too-small sample sizes, to outright fraud.

Here is a sampling of the recent bad press:

  • According to an analysis of 49 meta-analyses, the field of neuroscience produces a lot of small, low-powered studies, which leads to a lot of false and/or misleading conclusions (a.k.a. “discoveries”).
  • A scathing take-down of a study linking fist-clenching with memory. In the comments section, no less! (Another take-down was just posted on The Neurocritic).
  • A 2009 study about the practice of double-dipping (using overlapping data) in the field of neuroscience was recently making the rounds.
  • A lengthy profile in the Sunday New York Times Magazine of the eminently unlikeable Diederik Stapel, the infamous Dutch social sociologist who perpetrated perhaps the biggest academic fraud in the field of sociology (retractions to date: 53 articles and counting). (Film studies side note: Stapel’s account of going back to the sites of some his faked experiments and trying to make the actual setting fit his fabricated descriptions is strikingly similar to the sequence in Shattered Glass when Chuck Lane goes back to the locations Stephen Glass describes in his fabricated stories and tries to reconstruct the truth).

But there may be some good news. A recent editorial in The New Yorker by Gary Marcus says that this is all a tempest in a teapot. Marcus doesn’t claim that the accusations are wrong per se, but rather that the field of psychology is well prepared to address the problems. He also assures us we’ll be better off for the effort, even if we have to suffer through a “lost decade” of dubious research.

Finally, if you want to keep track of scientists keeping track of themselves, I recommend the blog Retraction Watch. It reads like a gossip column about all manner of scientific bad behavior. It’s the TMZ of science!