Over the last few years a lot of the alcohol research I have been involved in has been looking at helping people make better decisions about their alcohol consumption. Drinking too much has massive implication for society – it contributes to a generally high prevalence of people being overweight (alcohol is highly calorific) and people consuming alcohol takes a toll on society – both in terms of long term health care costs (i.e. people being at increased risk of heart and liver disease) but also in terms of alcohol related violence. Public health campaigns encouraging us to drink responsibly have met with limited success, and it’s not a problem that will go away. One possible way we could be approach this is by making low alcohol wines and beers more widely available – giving people a choice of a less calorific, less intoxicating drink. But would this work? Me and some colleagues from LSBU’s Centre for Addictive Behaviours Research teamed up with Cambridge University’s Behaviour and Health Research Unit to start finding out out…
One way of improving our relationship with stress is to understand some of the processes which underpin it, and how they influence the ways we try and cope. One way of understanding this is through the transactional model of stress and coping1. The transactional model of stress and coping argues that our experience of stress is ultimately a system of appraisal, response and adaptation.
Last week I posted about going through the process of writing Social Psychology: the Basics, a new textbook I am currently writing. I am just about to get cracking on the first draft of the final chapter. One aim of this section is to discuss future directions of social psychology as a discipline. I’m interested in what new topics social psychologist will (or should) be exploring. And I would like you to tell me!
Holidays and stereotypes content: Confessions of a ‘Hippy Parent’.
This last week my family and I have been on holiday. I for one needed it – the end of the academic year is pretty busy and I usually come out of it pretty beat. For our holiday we went to a resort on the south coast. We rented a small apartment in a block of 4 in the resorts ‘holiday village’. We had a super time and have returned back to work and family life much refreshed. However, something happened which was a bit thought provoking. I was (in a fairly nice way – all things considered!) reduced to a stereotype.
Procrastination, as we all know, is a productivity killer. I have a list of jobs (sometimes written down, and sometimes in my head) I need to do on a day to day basis. Some jobs – particularly ones I am worried about, or where a poor outcome has dire consequences- seem to sit on that list for a long time. This often makes them more difficult when I finally get to them! Why do we do this to ourselves? What is the psychology which underpins it, and how can we avoid getting bogged down in procrastination?
I am thrilled to say that my new book, Psychology Squared: 100 Concepts in Psychology You Should Know is now out, published by Apple Press and available in physical form via Amazon and other channels. Written by myself and Dr. Christopher Sterling, this volume outlines 100 interesting ideas and concepts in psychology, each accompanied by a beautiful illustration or fantastically informative diagram. I’m really proud of what we have achieved, and writing it was really the inspiration for the blog. You can read more about it by visiting my little bookstore here.
Implementation intentions and behavioural follow-through
Like many people (I suspect!) I am sometimes not so good at following though on my goals. Here are a bunch of things which this week I fully intended to do, but failed epically to achieve. Note this is the abridged version – the full list runs to 3 volumes.
Buy light bulbs for the kitchen
Call an old friend I ran into on the train last week (Hello J!)
Write down when my annual leave is on our kitchen calendar
Call a work colleague to discuss a new project
Write up some work related expense forms
For many of these things I actively thought about doing them several times a day (as well as whilst cooking crazily calorie laden food in a near pitch-black kitchen).I’m not alone here – these sort of goals only seem to account for around 30% of the variance in our behaviour. Now, I am a reasonably well motivated guy, so why the apparent multiple lack of follow through? Part of the is probably due to the way I formulate my intentions.
It all began with a perfectly ordinary event – my partner, daughters and I were invited around for a late afternoon dinner with some friends one Sunday last month. Usually when you go to someone’s house you bring something – some flowers, something you have made, or a bottle of something (not so much the latter for us now as we are basically drunk all the time in my household). In this instance we’d been quite disorganised and been unable to sort anything out in advance. No problem – we would just pick something up on the way right? Wrong. Just as we were leaving our baby (with impeccable timing) needed a full nappy / outfit change and a comprehensive hosing down(I’ll let you guess why). As a result we arrived at the supermarket at one minute past four, 60 full seconds after it closed, and were barred entry. Even though we knew the people we were seeing (who are super nice squared) would not automatically expect us to bring something we still felt we had a dilemma – walk across town to another shop which may be open, but be quite late (which with kids and eating can be a deal breaker in terms of a pleasant afternoon!) or go empty handed, which felt wrong (or so half of our partnership thought). OK, so it’s a bit of a exaggeration to say my marriage was nearly destroyed by this discussion. But my partner and I did have quite a falling out! In the end we picked something up, were a bit late, and had a fantastic evening. The tension this seemingly minor issue raised did lead me to reflect on why the drive to bring something when we go to someone’s house to eat is so strong, and what psychology has to say about it.
Psychological research shows us that meditation can increase your immune function and health, improve levels of happiness and bolster emotional self-regulation. It can also decrease negative emotions and massively reduce stress and anxiety. It can also make you more productive in your day to day lives. It’s not complicated, and it need not have a spiritual component to it. Neither should it take up hours of your day. Even 10 minutes done regularly can have an impact on your life.