Comments due for 18.4.2012

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Do Television, games and other forms of media really have an effect on our behaviour?

Hi there all.  Last blog of academic year from me! So, I thought I’d go for a topic that really interests me.  Please please be warned that the first example I’m going to use is a pretty nasty one, so I would warn you not to read on if you’re easily upset.

We’ve all heard the theories that games such as Grand Theft Auto can have an effect on a person’s behaviour. Ie. GTA might make a person more violent in real life.

The reason that this subject is on my mind is because I was recently listening to a call in show that airs on Radio City in Liverpool in which a caller was discussing James Bulger and his killers.  I don’t know if everyone will be familiar with the story, but I know anyone from the Merseyside area will know it well and keep it close to their heart, as I know I do.  I really won’t go into the story in much detail because it is absolutely heartbreaking, but in short, 2 very nasty 10 year old boys (keeping my language clean here) took a 2 year old boy away from his mother in a crowded shopping mall and did very horrible things to him before murdering him.  I wouldn’t bring this heartbreaking story up usually, but it is relevant to my topic.
Firstly, if anyone is not familiar with the James Bulger story, and wants to know about it,  everything about what happened, the trial, the release, the re-arrest of one of the boys 2 years ago etc. is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_James_Bulger

But please please be warned, I’ve just read through it (keeping in mind that I already knew it all) and I’m in tears and feel a little sick…so please be sure that you want to read it before you do, because it is utterly heartbreaking and sickening.

Anyway, moving on to how this is relevant.  The killing has been indirectly linked to the film Child’s Play 3 many times.  It is a film that one of the boy’s father had rented the week before and has been speculated that the boys watched as James’ death was similar to the death in the film. The judge on the case even mentioned film violence.  The subject got the nation talking about whether violent films could have influenced the two 10 year old boys to murder a young boy.  In reality, one boy had been sexually abused by his father and beaten by his brothers while the other had always been a difficult child (http://karisable.com/mbulg.htm), and surely this is what was to blame for their behaviour.

Having said this, the film certainly seems to have given the boys the idea of how to kill, maybe it gave them the initial idea of killing at all.

There have been many studies proving that there is a correlation between real-life violence and time spent watching violent films/playing violent games.  However, correlation does not prove causation.  So, it doesn’t prove that the violent media causes the violent behaviour, but perhaps that already violent people gravitate towards violent media.   However, there has been a study done that has shown that people who spend a lot of time playing violent games become desensitised to real-life violence. (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8449-violent-video-games-alter-brains-response-to-violence.html).
But, again, does desensitisation to real-life violence mean that a person is likely to commit that violence themselves, or that it simply wouldn’t phase them seeing a murder, for example.

When thinking about this subject, I always think to myself  ‘well, I watched scary films and played Grand Theft Auto when I was around 13ish…and I’m not a violent person. I’ve never had the urge to murder anyone.  I’m sure this is the case for a huge percentage of the population.  So, how can it work one way for some people and another for others?  If violent media alone is to blame for violent behaviour, surely everyone who participates in violent media would behave the same.  But they don’t…so there must be other factors affecting the violent behaviour.

I do believe that violent media has a bad effect on children who may have a bad temper or bad home environment, but I do not believe it is the primary cause of violent behaviour.

At the end of the day, the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) put age restrictions on games and films for a reason. Because children under that age may not be mature enough to understand that the violence is fake and unacceptable.  Having said that, most violence does come from adults..so is some media just too violent to be put out to the public?

I, personally, think that it stops with the parents.  Of course, my parents knew me better than anyone and thought it safe for me to play Grand Theft Auto or watch the occasional film that I was too young to watch, because they knew me, knew that I knew right from wrong, and could keep a close eye on me.  Parents should know whether their child is mature enough to handle such media.

But then, again, what about adults who may be influenced by the media? Their parents can’t tell them what to watch and what not to watch.

Finally, unfortunately, the children who probably shouldn’t be watching such films, are perhaps those who don’t have a good home environment. Who perhaps have abusive parents or unloving parents which may result in the child being angry, violent or desperate for attention.  These children probably aren’t mature enough to handle the violent media and are the types of people who would get bad ideas and pick up violent behaviour.  Unfortunately, their parents probably aren’t paying enough attention, or don’t care enough to stop them participating in such media in the first place. It’s a vicious cirlce.

Anyway, I do not believe that Child’s play 3 was to blame for James’ death. I think maybe it gave those horrible boys some ideas, but they had a horrible environment to start with.  Seeing that film alone would not have caused such horrific acts, I don’t think.

Right, I seem to have let my thoughts run away with me. It’s such a huge topic area.  Please let me know your opinions.

I appologise for the heavy topic, but I think it’s an important one to think about in Psychology.

Have a great Easter everyone.

Please, spare a thought and a prayer for James Bulger and his family. The gorgeous little angel who had his life tragically taken away from him.  Never ever forgotten or unloved. RIP.

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Comments due 14.3.12

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Does the theory of an attentional ‘spotlight’ really explain how people direct their attention?

Hello all :)
Hope your exams went well.  Today, I’ve actually decided to take my idea from the essay I wrote in my Cognitive exam. I have, of course, not just copied it word for word, but I’m going to try and discuss it and make it more accessible and (for lack of a better word) bloggy.

I thought it would be a good idea to share my ideas from this question, and hopefully get feedback from other people who did the same essay, or even those who didn’t and just want to share.

So, first of all, I’m going to explain a little about the theory of attentional ‘spotlight’.  With all the things that are going on in our environment around us, it would be impossible to try and process all of it, and this is where the idea of an attention spotlight came from.

It was first suggested by Posner, Snyder and Davidson in 1980.  Posner theorised that our attention was like a spotlight which can be moved around and focused on a single target.

Cueing experiments were used to get evidence to support the theory.  In cueing experiments, participants are asked to respond as quickly as they can to a stimulus, which may be a light coming on, for example.  The light would be to the right or left of a central fixation point and might be preceded by a cue.  So, an arrow might come on screen telling the participant which way they should direct their attention.

The results showed that, as you would expect, people responded faster if they’d been told before hand which way to direct their attention.  Participants responded slowest if they’d been tricked into directing their attention the wrong way.  Ie. if the arrow pointed to the left, but light actually showed up on the right.

In 1990, Posner and Peterson built on this idea and proposed that focusing attention occurs in 3 stages:

  1. Attention would be disengaged, or taken away, from where it was currently focused.
  2. Attention would physically shift from one location to another.
  3. Attention would be engaged onto the new thing.
A criticism of this, though, is that it suggests that eyes must be constantly moving overtly in order for attention to be shifted.  Surely attention can be moved from one thing to another covertly while the eyes remain still?
Think about when someone is driving.  Their eyes remain on the road, but they might be shifting their attention a lot, from what to have for dinner to what they need to do tomorrow.
In 1986, Eriksen and St. James elaborated on the spotlight theory and proposed that attention is more like a ‘zoom lens’.  That instead of it being a single beam of light in which attention is limited to a set size or spatial focus, that people could increase or decrease their attentional focus.  Ie. zoom in or out.
However, further research has questioned several aspects of these theories.  Most importantly, several studies have shown that attention can be split between more than one location.  This doesn’t fit with the idea of a single attentional beam or lens.
In my opinion, even though there have been criticims of the spotlight theory, and it doesn’t seem to fully explain how people direct their attention, it was still a very important theory in that it provided a useful insight into how our attention can move independently of our eyes.  Also, further research that has been done has provided the basis for more theoretical explanations of attention and has shed light on how complex the cognitive processes involved in attention are.
So, that’s me done for the time being.  Please share the other ideas you may have had from doing this essay or may just have because you’re very clever people :)
Thanks for reading.

http://www.simplypsychology.org/visual-attention.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attentional_shift#Three_stages_of_attention_orienting

http://www.psychologypracticals.com/html/details.asp?id=21

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Comments for week 4+5

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Should psychology be written for the layman or should science be exclusively for scientists?

February 19, 2012 6 comments

Hello all, welcome to another week and another blog.  Hope you’re all keeping well.

Today, I’ll be discussing whether psychology should be written in simple terms so that everyone can understand, or whether it should be kept scientific and just for scientists.

I believe that the first thing to consider here is what kind of research is actually being done.  For example, social psychology is something which the majority of people can relate to, and so, can understand.  In this case, if research were being done into the area, should it not be written so that everyone can understand it?

For example, Milgram’s study on obedience is something which the majority of people can relate to and understand. So, should this kind of research not be written so that they can read it and understand it?  (http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm)

On the other hand, an area such as psychobiology, although applicable to all society, is something which is not as easy to understand and can be a lot more scientific.  Is this the kind of research which should be written in scientific terms?

It may be important to note that without scientists/psychologists to first conduct research and to further evaluate it, we would not have anything to discuss in this topic.  There would be no research to read and to understand.

Turney stated that people have an appetite for scientific information, but there is a duty for scientists to explain the scientific research in ways that a range of people can use.  (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2896%2990283-4/abstract)

This means that while we do need scientists to understand research, it then should be explained to general public in ways that they can understand and use.  But does this mean that the research should be written in a way that only scientists understand, and then they should simplify it for the people who need it to be?

I think that it is important to note that, while Psychology is a science, it is also something which studies human behaviour and can be used to aid society’s knowledge of why people may act as they do.  Why should this only be something that scientists can learn?  Do people who may not be able to understand scientific terms not deserve to learn and to understand, considering Psychology is the study of EVERYONE’S behaviour, and not just the behaviour of people who study it?

If we think about previous research, and what important conclusions were drawn from it, it becomes clear that the general public should be able to learn from research findings.  An example can come from Asch’s study on conformity.  Asch drew important conclusions about how likely people are to conform to a group idea, even if they knew that the group opinion was the wrong one.  If scientists alone knew how to understand the research findings, would there really be any point in conducting the research when people as a whole can not learn from it?  Surely, this would mean that scientists would understand why people behaved as they did, but nothing would be learnt from it and nothing would change.  Using the example from Asch’s study, if nobody but scientists could understand what the findings showed about conformity, this would result in scientists knowing why people may conform, but general people not knowing and therefore not being able to change their behaviour.

 

In conclusions, while Psychology is a science, it is also the study of behaviour exhibited by all people, and therefore, I believe that it should be written so that non-scientists can read, understand and perhaps learn from research.

However, this can only take us so far and there may of course may cases (such as in Psychobiology) where things may not be as easily simplified. In which case, it should not be that the ‘laymen’ should not know about and learn about research, but research should be understood by scientists and put in terms that everyone can understand.

 

 

Thanks for reading, see you next time :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Qualitative Vs Quantitative research

February 5, 2012 15 comments

Hello! Back again!  Hope everyone had a good Christmas and your exams all went well!

So, this time I’m going to be talking about the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, and which one might be better to use when collecting data.

First off, I’m going to briefly discuss the difference between the two.

Quantitative research

Quantitiative research is probably what most of us are used to: collecting numbers and figures and using SPSS to see what those numbers and figures mean.  Examples of this type of data are clinical trials or maybe a National Census.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is used to explore more deeply, to help understand people’s beliefs, attitudes, experiences and behaviours.  In contrast to Quantitative research, it creates non-numerical data.  For example, description rather than a measure.  Qualitative research uses methods such as in-depth interviews and focus groups.

 

So, we have two contrasting ways of collecting data.  What are their strengths and weaknesses?

We have quantitative which can produce large amounts of data, the researcher knows clearly in advance what they are looking for, all aspects of the study are carefully designed before the experiment starts, the researcher can remain objective.

However, quantitative research does have it’s limitations.  It is not very flexible; there is no way to delve deeper into single participants as all participants answer the same set questions.  It can be very vulnerable to statistical error.

In the book Qualitative Data Analysis, quantitative researcher Fred Kerlinger is quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0″

 

On the other hand, qualitative research gives researchers a chance to change their questions as research is being conducted to find out more in-depth information and get richer data.  Qualitative research is flexible and highly focused.   Because the results are seen or heard first-hand, the researcher can relate to the findings easily.

Qualitative research, however, is not without it’s limitations.  The researcher may only know roughly in advance what they are looking for, it is very subjective and relies on the researcher’s own ideas and way of interpreting the data they collect, it often uses a small sample size which means that results are not easily generalized.

 

 

So, with both having such strengths and weaknesses, how can it be possible to say which is the better one to use?

Some researchers believe that qualitative and quantitative methods can’t be combined because the assumptions underlying each are too different.

Other researchers think that they can be used together if the methods are alternated.  Qualitative and quantitative methods are right for certain conditions in their own rights.

Some researchers think that both methods can be used together to answer the same research question.

With so much disagreement, even between researchers, I don’t think it is actually possible to say which is the better one to use.

I personally think that it would be best to use a qualitative method to find out more about a research question, and then use a quantitative method to get more data.

 

http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/research/gentrans/pop2f.cfm

http://wilderdom.com/research/QualitativeVersusQuantitativeResearch.html

 

So, that’s it from me. See you all next time :)

 

 

 

 

 

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