Science for the People: Pavlov

sftpThis week, Science for the People will learn about the life and work of a groundbreaking psychologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. They spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Science for the People: The Psychopath Whisperer

sftpThis week on Science for the People, we’re looking at the science of psychopathy. We’ll spend the hour learning  about social science research, neuroimaging and behavioral therapies with Kent Kiehl, neuroscience researcher, lecturer and author of The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Science for The People: Science & the Death Penalty

sftpThis week, Science for The People looks at the science of the ultimate criminal punishment. Pharmacologist and science writer David Kroll discusses the chemistry of the drugs used in lethal injections. They talk to law professor Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, about the rates of false convictions in death penalty cases. And they speak to Johns Hopkins University psychiatrist Dr. James Harris about the complex issues at the intersection of capital punishment and intellectual disability.

Breaking News: Kids Distract Easily

Art, by a kid (mine) that was hung on a wall (mine)
Art, by a kid (mine) that was hung on a wall (mine)

Those of us in online environments are familiar with the concept of attention allocation or attention as currency. A new research paper in Psychological Science argues that off-topic wall decorations in the classrooms of young students distract from the learning.

I’m not a psychology researcher. So, I can’t and won’t comment on the merits of the work as it relates to the body of related research. From reports, the study does use a small sample size (24 students in one class) and the same students in both conditions. So, don’t start yelling at your kid’s kindergarten teacher based on this study alone.

As the parent of a kindergartener and a recently graduated kindergartener, I was a bit surprised to discover that there was debate about the decoration of classroom grounds on its educational merit. Here, competition for kindergarten students is pretty fierce. At the same time, we parents are pretty irrational consumers of education as a product.

Walls covered in bright colors and cute art by little kids? That makes a classroom look fun, inviting, and warm. It distracts us too; and, before you know it, we are signing applications and deposit checks.


You are probably going to be ok

Vaughan Bell penned an insightful piece for The Guardian about psychologically recovering from disasters. Evidence and expert opinion from world leading health agencies supports the statement that the vast majority of people who experience a “disaster-level” trauma recover, psychologically, on their own.

The evidence does not support the trendy notion of “psychological debriefing” – one-off counseling immediately after events to help people “process” – in fact it shows that it is worse than doing nothing. The actual experts in disaster relief seem to be wise to the research and using methods to help identify those people who do need help, rather than “helping” people who do not need it.

*Hat tip to Ed Yong.

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