What does psychology make of alien abductions? And what does this study tell us about the discipline?
Last night, my partner and I were watching a rerun of the X-Files. It was great, Mulder and Scully being curious and sceptical, hints of conspiracy, images of alien abduction and some great dry humour. But it got me thinking – what does my discipline make of belief in alien abduction? And what does it study tell us about the wider context of psychological science?
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My family and I have a allotment (well, a half sized allotment)a short walk from our home. The growing season starts in earnest soon, and our windowsills are covered in small seedlings and the like already. Whilst digging last week (something which allotments seemingly demand endlessly!) I began to wonder about the psychology of gardening.
Interestingly, a quick search of the research literature revealed a pretty decent selection of papers. Gardening seems to have a great stress reducing effect – lowering physiological reactions to stress1, being of therapeutic benefit for everyone from children2 to the elderly3. It is also linked to higher self-efficacy and self esteem4. But how does it work? This seems to be a bit more of a mystery, but I’m happy to speculate. One argument is that simply looking at green landscapes is simply inherently soothing (Soylent Green anyone?). I think this is true from hiking trips, but looking at my allotment is NOT viewing a inherently pleasant vista (more of a muddy diorama covered in bravely struggling flora!). I wonder if it is more about the states of mind gardening can produce, and the social connections it brings.
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Why am I writing this?
My name is Dan Frings and I’m an academic – specifically an Associate Professor in Psychology. Academics write copiously, but within quite strict confines. We write journal articles each focused on a single experiment. We write book chapters (or even books) to specialist audiences of academics. Occasionally we write text books for undergraduates. We are always very circumspect in the claims we make about what our work means.
At the end of last year I was invited to be involved in writing a book which was a little different (for me at least). This books was called called “Psychology Squared:100 Concepts in Psychology you should know”. It’s aimed at a mass audience, and boils down complex concepts into bite sized chunks (and each gets a picture or diagram). Although it’s not out until June, for me it’s already had a big impact. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing for a non-academic audience.
Continue reading “Hello!”