Brighton briefs

Our editor Jon Sutton has some snippets from the Society's Annual Conference.

Researching ‘psychological flexibility’ at the individual, leadership and team level, Danielle Lamb (Division of Psychiatry, UCL) found that teams with higher psychological flexibility actually had lower service user satisfaction. Lamb speculated she may have received a more realistic picture from teams that were more flexible, more engaged with the research process; or that how satisfied people are with the service they received might not be that related to long-term outcomes. ‘People may need to be pushed outside their comfort zones.’


In the enticingly titled ‘The lost boys who find revenge’, Lynsey Gozna (University of Nottingham) examined what is the second most prevalent motive for crime (after financial). Looking to ‘bridge the investigative-clinical divide in understanding the experiences of revenge and accompanying trajectories’, she used an intensive interview approach and file data with personality disordered patients in a secure mental health setting. Situations of ‘powerless fear’ tended to lead to a desire to regain control and a feeling of entitlement to punish. People became ‘immersed’ in revenge; masculinity emerged as a key aspect. Gozna’s interviewees clearly identified with the pathways she identified: ‘That’s just my life on a piece of paper’, one said.


Could pupil size be used as a measure to improve the accuracy of eyewitness identification? It’s known to be affected by valence and cognitive load, and Camilla Elphick (University of Sussex) found that participants asked to pick a suspect out of a line up not only showed a strong pupil size response when they were highly confident and got the right person; they also showed an increase when viewing the target but not making an identification, and no response when saying they said they were confident but actually ended up getting it wrong.


Following up an exclusive article for us, Guy Claxton discussed ‘intelligence in the flesh’. Drawing out the implications of embodied cognition and systemic biology, he argued that ‘neuroscience’ has depicted the brain as the command centre and allowed us to maintain the denigration of bodily processes. But the body keeps trying to get in on the act; physical illness affects concentration and judgement, and there are visceral and muscular forms of cognition such as being ‘touched’ or ‘moved’ by a poem. Bodies participate in thinking, he concluded. Claxton still has a way to go in persuading the masses: ‘I try to talk to my GP about this,’ he admitted, ‘and she says “yes, lovely dear”.’


Plant extracts have performed important functions throughout our evolutionary history, and in many ways they still do. But is much of the potential untapped? Mark Moss (University of Northumbria) thinks so, particularly after his small study found that 10-11 year olds completing tests in a room infused with rosemary aroma performed better on tests of immediate serial recall, sentence span and counting span, compared with those who sat the tests in a room without the smell. Moss discussed potential mechanisms involving mood, quasi-pharmacological arousal, or a pharmacological route via 1,8-Cineole (which prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine). 

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