Society

Including President's column, Book Award, staff redundancies, Parkinson's guidance, a century of the BJP, tackling drug addiction and more

President’s column
Sue Gardner
Contact Sue Gardner via the Society’s Leicester office,
or e-mail: [email protected]

This year’s Annual Conference in Brighton attracted nearly 600 delegates from around the UK and beyond. Professor Ken Brown and the Conference Committee certainly succeeded in their aim of providing something for all. The keynote speakers, the posters, the range of symposia topics and the break-time discussions generated a lively buzz throughout the venue. The Events team made sure that everything ran smoothly and the Public Relations team worked hard to capitalise on the media interest generated. All the major broadsheets and tabloids carried stories, resulting in a total of 159 press cuttings including 33 interviews. BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2, as well as numerous local radio stations, also discussed some of the research presented. All of this news about psychology was competing with the Obamas’ visit and the G20 summit which shows an increasing awareness in the usefulness and relevance of the discipline. I would like to congratulate and thank everyone involved in the Annual Conference and I’m already looking forward to next year’s in Stratford-upon-Avon from 14 to 16 April, where I understand there will be at least one symposium with an artistic theme.

The growing interest in psychology and our potential evidence-based contribution to the public are motivators for various Society activities involving parliaments around the UK. As always, there have to be priorities, and at present these are: alternatives to custodial sentencing in reducing reoffending and preventing crime; delayed gratification and links to well-being; knife crime and effective deterrents; climate change and human behaviour; the Olympic legacy, with an emphasis on increasing exercise; and finally, contributing to the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) project ‘The Social Brain’, which proposes altruism as a better predictor of human decision making than rational self-interest. If you would like to be involved in these activities or to know more about them, please get in touch ([email protected]).

Parliamentary interest in psychology is not restricted to these topics alone, and as the Society we respond to public consultations on a wide range of topics. We are also in the parliamentary spotlight at present as the statutory regulation legislation is being debated in Westminster and Holyrood. Further details are available in this publication (News, p.380) and on the website (www.bps.org.uk/statreg). The Honorary Officers are meeting with Division Chairs and with Representative Council in May to discuss the implications for us all. We hope to streamline our processes and focus on priorities. There will be a wide consultation on our new strategic plan and some proposals for the future of member networks. Your input will be needed to ensure that we consider the best interests of all members. Also, draft ideas for new membership rules to replace the voluntary investigatory procedures that we have operated ourselves since the 1980s will be discussed by Representative Council in May. Whilst welcoming regulation and public protection, we are concerned to maintain the high standards that we have set ourselves. It is important that our A-level, undergraduate and postgraduate students and trainees are receiving a first-class, well-resourced, broadly based, scientific education that prepares them for the many potential futures that await them. The research on which our knowledge is based must be encouraged, and the many applications of psychology must be developed. To these ends we are considering systems of ‘kite marking’ to recognise and celebrate good-quality courses and activities in partnership with those who provide them. There are always difficulties during times of great change but as a Society working together we have the intelligence and imagination to minimise these and to make use of our new opportunities.

Book Award 2009 Alan Baddeley

The British Psychological Society Book Award 2009 has been given to Professor Alan Baddeley for Working Memory, Thought, and Action.

In what is described as his magnum opus, Baddeley traces the development of his model of working memory from its conception in 1974 to the latest research findings surrounding it and goes on to explore the model’s broader significance.

In the 30 years since Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch developed their model of working memory, its defining visuospatial sketchpad, phonological loop, central executive and later episodic buffer have advanced understanding of how people manage verbal and spatial information – shaping the field of memory research.

Professor Baddeley revisits this model in the early chapters of Working Memory, Thought, and Action, and explores both subsequent experimental evidence in its favour and controversy surrounding it. Later he goes on to discuss the relevance of recent findings from neuroimaging and recency effect studies to his updated theory. In the latter stages of the book, Professor Baddeley steps outside of cognitive psychology to propose the possible roles of the working memory model in social and emotional behaviour, consciousness and free will.

Professor Baddeley said: ‘With this book I wanted to present an up-to-date view of this model and also outline the philosophical issues that I felt the working memory model has something to say about – such as control of action and emotion.’

Professor Martin Conway, who chaired this year’s Book Award Committee, said: ‘This is the definitive statement on working memory and outlines Professor Alan Baddeley’s theoretical thinking generally on the active role of memory and cognition.’

Reviews of Working Memory, Thought, and Action support declarations of its importance. PsycCRITIQUES states: ‘In short, this is a book that deserves wide readership.’ While Daniel Schacter from Harvard University says: ‘I believe this is one of the most important books published during recent years in cognitive psychology or cognitive neuroscience.’
On accepting the accolade, Professor Alan Baddeley told The Psychologist: ‘I’m very, very pleased to have been recognised with this award. Although I intended to only take a year to write the book while on sabbatical at Stanford University in California, it eventually took around four years from start to finish, However, I got a great deal of satisfaction from writing it and speaking to the many people who helped me bring it together. My hope is that Working Memory, Thought, and Action will encourage more cognitive psychologists to think about issues like emotion and social psychology in their work.’

Parkinson’s guidance

The psychological needs of people with Parkinson’s disease and their families are the subject of new British Psychological Society guidance. Written by Dr Jamie Macniven, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist for Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, with support from Alexandra Gaskill, Assistant Psychologist, the document Psychological Services for People with Parkinson’s Disease has now been published by the Professional Practice Board (available free via www.bps.org.uk/ppb).

The guidance was developed following a request from the Parkinson’s Disease Society for the Society, and in particular the Division of Neuropsychology, to influence the national strategy for the development of services for this patient group. Great progress has been made in the management of the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but comparatively little attention has been paid to the emotional and psychological impact of the condition. The guidance highlights that effective evidence-based psychological interventions must be made available to people with Parkinson’s disease who experience psychological disorders. Furthermore, the cognitive sequelae need to be more widely recognised, and neuropsychological assessment and intervention made more accessible.

The guidance also highlights the need for further research into the psychological management of emotional and cognitive problems associated with Parkinson’s disease. Members of the Society who work with people with Parkinson’s disease are encouraged to use the document to promote local service developments, and to negotiate with NHS commissioners and research grant providers.

Staff redundancies

In response to a significant trading deficit in 2008 and clear instructions from the British Psychological Society’s auditors that the current financial position is unsustainable, the Society’s Board of Trustees asked the Senior Management Team to produce a plan – including potential reductions in staffing – to bring the budget back into the balance by the end of 2010 at the latest. This led to an internal consultation, during which a number of helpful suggestions were received. However, it regrettably remained necessary to proceed with some staff redundancies.

The office staff are working on internal processes to ensure that member services are not affected.

The British Journal of Psychology – Celebrating a century

This year the British Journal of Psychology (BJP) sees the publication of Volume 100, and to celebrate the Society is making the special issue available free online via www.bpsjournals.co.uk for the whole of May.

The BJP has been a pre-eminent general psychology journal and over the 100 volumes has published papers covering all of the key subdisciplines of psychology – cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, individual differences, behaviourism, vision research, etc. – with papers from key influential figures in all these fields.

For example, over the years the archive of the BJP contains many outstanding articles on perception, by Kohler and Kofka in the 1920s, Gibson in the 1950s and Penrose in the 1960s. Work on individual differences in personality and IQ is represented by such luminaries as Cattell, Eysenck, Spearman, Thurstone and Zuckerman (stemming from the 1920s – with Cattell and Thurstone offering statistical and methodological insights. The world of social psychology is represented by papers from Allport, Argyle, Breakwell and Tajfel. The long tradition in experimental cognitive psychology is well established in the journal and represented by papers over the decades from Annett, Aggleton, Bartlett, Broadbent, Bruce, Neisser, Tipper, Underwood and Young). Developmental psychology is represented over the years by Piaget, Goswami and Butterworth, and animal learning by MacKintosh and Watson.

As well as being an outlet for important academic debates, in March 1920 the journal also published a series of articles that laid the foundations for professional psychology and the institution of special sections within the Society. T.P. Nunn set out his views of psychology and education, discussing the assessment of cognitive abilities – an issue that contemporary educational psychology is also familiar with. C.S. Myers, in the same issue, described his vision for psychology and industry and highlighted four areas where psychology can be profitably applied to industrial settings: fatigue; movement study; vocational guidance; and management. These resonate with contemporary issues of occupational psychology concerning stress and health at work; training and interventions; selection and person–job fit; and industrial relations, work incentive and job-restructuring. Finally, W.H.R. Rivers wrote about the vision for psychology and medicine. This drew on theory from social psychology, animal research, and cross-cultural psychology to address questions of mental heath. The idea of developing understanding of mental health via studying brain lesion was highlighted. Here we see the beginnings of clinical psychology, health psychology and neuroscience. All three writers emphasised the importance of evidence-based practice – a theme of central importance today – and the use of experimental and observation methods. The importance of overlap between the subsection and the need to integrate theory and methods across subdiscipline to develop theory and practice was highlighted. It is interesting to note that this call for integration was made 89 years ago and is still being championed today with the ever increasing specialisation in contemporary psychology.

Indeed, in these days of increasing specialisation within the subdisciplines  of psychology and the consequent specialisation in journals, the BJP remains unique as a general psychology journal. This provides a forum for all the subdisciplines of psychology to find a common outlet and inevitably leads the authors to focus on the wider issue in psychology that their work addresses. We feel this can only serve to further theoretical integration across the discipline and keep the journal central to development across all areas in psychology. In the future the journal should go from strength to strength with the continued publication of high-quality papers across all the fields of psychology. We have also instigated a series of high-quality target articles and commentaries by world leaders in their fields. The first two target articles by Alan Kingstone and colleagues on cognitive ethology and by Baron-Cohen and colleagues on fetal testosterone and autistic traits have been published along with commentaries. Future target articles are planned on altruism, reading behaviour, and psychopathy and aggression.

To mark the occasion of volume 100 and to represent the strength in this historical diversity, a special issue containing five classic articles by pre-eminent scholars, who set the trends in our discipline, has been published. In making our selection, we looked for topics that have stood the test of time, and historically cover the broad spectrum of subdisciplines that marks out contemporary psychology. Hence we selected material that was published in the BJP in the early part of the 20th century by Watson, Bartlett, Piaget, Cattell and Gibson. Notably, the authors of these five articles are listed in Rom Harré’s 2006 book Key Thinkers in Psychology.

The article by J.B. Watson (the ‘father of behaviourism’) published in 1920 ponders the question of whether thought deserves to be construed as sub-vocal speech. Issues raised in Watson’s landmark article are addressed in commentaries by Geoffrey Hall and Mark Bouton. The article by Frederic Bartlett from 1925 is on the question of the relationship between feelings, imaging and thinking. We now know, of course, that this question is far from trivial, and we are still striving to make significant progress. The commentators, Brian Parkinson and Tim Dalgleish recognise the value of Bartlett’s work more generally in laying the foundations for experimental investigations into cognitive process. The article by Jean Piaget published in 1928 is of particular note as it was originally published in French and the publication marks its first translation into English. The article, on children’s developing understanding of causality, has many classic Piagetian features with a strong emphasis on stages of development. The commentators, Michael Chandler and Paul Harris, savour the quality of theorising that Piaget displayed and identify the many enduring themes in the article. The article written by Raymond B. Cattell and published in 1946 is ground-breaking in the way it decomposes individual differences into elemental traits concerning cognitive abilities, personality and motivation. The commentators, Philip Ackerman and William Revelle, consider not only the content of the reprinted article but assess Cattell’s contribution more broadly with reference to other articles published in the BJP– his work has been cited nearly 9000 times. The fifth article by J.J. Gibson appeared in 1958 and offers a theory of how organisms successfully navigate their environment according to the flow of changing visual information. The commentators, Brian Rogers and William Warren, enthusiastically highlight the seminal quality of Gibson’s work and they warmly acknowledge how it has impacted on many disciplines, not just psychology.

We very much enjoyed looking over the history of the journal when selecting the articles for the celebratory issue and very much hope that people will find the centenary celebratory issues interesting and informative.
Peter Mitchell and Eamonn Ferguson
University of Nottingham
Co-editors for the Special Issue

 

Tackling drug addiction

Society members have helped to produce a new guide to encourage drug workers to make better use of ‘talking therapies’ to support drug misusers overcoming dependency.

It is the latest in a series of initiatives being developed by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse to improve the quality of drug treatment in England by ensuring that drug workers and clinicians have access to a range of tools to tackle addiction.

The guide, Psychosocial Interventions for Drug Misuse, applies established core mental health skills, such as relationship building, to drug treatment. It was written by Stephen Pilling, Kathryn Hesketh and Luke Mitcheson of the Society’s Centre for Outcomes, Research and Effectiveness (CORE); and the Research Department
of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology of University College London. Dr Luke Mitcheson said: ‘There needs to be a range of approaches for tackling drug dependency to accommodate the many complex needs and mental health issues which we encounter – one size definitely does not fit all. Talking therapies are one core aspect of the support needed so that drug misusers can overcome dependency. People with addiction also need practical support with reintegration into society so they can lead lives free from dependency.’
I    A full copy of the toolkit is available at www.nta.nhs.uk
 

Guidance for Mental Health Act ‘approved clinicians’

The Mental Health Act 2007 (MHA 2007), which amends the Mental Health 1983, came into force in November 2008. The published Code of Practice that supports the implementation of the MHA 2007 acknowledges explicitly for the first time psychological formulation and intervention as a perspective to inform multidisciplinary care planning and management, with the potential for chartered psychologists to take a team-leading role as responsible clinicians.

The introduction of non-medical responsible clinicians to carry out the functions previously reserved to psychiatrists will enable responsibility to be better distributed across competency-based teams capable of providing efficient person-centred care and appropriate choice, as envisaged in the Department of Health’s New Ways of Working programme.

The Professional Practice Board’s MHA Working Party has produced supplementary guidance (available from www.bps.org.uk/ppb) to the Code of Practice to support chartered psychologists in the implementation of the MHA 2007, which cements within a statutory framework important developments in mental health services in relation to clinical leadership, distributed responsibility and improved access to psychological services.

It is anticipated that both the range and content of the guidance may change over time as psychologists begin to take up the approved clinician and responsible clinician roles and test them in practice. Guidance is provided for psychologists seeking approval and acting as approved clinicians in a number areas including: the approval process; the appropriate medical treatment test; conflicts of interest; responses to disturbed behaviour; supervised community treatment; and people with learning disabilities.

The recommendations provided are to assist psychologist approved clinicians in weighing and reaching clinically defensible decisions in the best interests of patients and relevant others having due regard to the provisions of MHA, the Code of Practice and other relevant legislation, and the views of the patient, the clinical team and others involved in the patient’s care.   

Society vacancies

Board of Assessors in Counselling Psychology
Ordinary member
Chartered Counselling Psychologist. Travel and subsistence expenses met.
Contact Bethan Carley [email protected], 0116 252 9933 . Closing date 15 May 2009

Effects of Pornography Working Party
Members
Members sought with proven research interest in the field to serve until summer 2010.Travel and subsistence expenses met.
Contact Kelly Auty [email protected]
Closing date 28 June 2009

CONSULTATIONS ON PUBLIC POLICY

Responses were submitted to six consultations during March. Three of these concerned proposals from the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. Selected points are outlined below, but for full details please see our website (www.bps.org.uk/consult).
I    Although a welcome initiative, ‘Personality Disorder: A diagnosis for inclusion’, the Northern Ireland Personality Disorder Strategy included significant limitations. In particular, insufficient attention had been paid to the development of dedicated personality disorder services within the areas of general mental health services, social services, forensic services and the criminal justice system and to how care pathways might be developed. It was recommended that a steering group be established to address these issues and that further consideration be given to the service configuration and staff composition of dedicated personality disorder services.
I    The Strategy for Health and Social Care Bereavement Services in Northern Ireland was commended for its clear presentation, excellent attention to detail and for having been based on extensive work. Key recommendations raised in the response concerned: extension of the evidence base; the integration of psychological knowledge and expertise in the training and continuing professional development of workers engaged in the field; the need for comprehensive communication and support, particularly where children are bereaved; and the need for clinical psychologists and counselling psychologists (and, where appropriate, health psychologists and educational and child psychologists) to be at the forefront in delivering interventions to deal with trauma and emotional damage resulting from bereavement.
I    The Strategy for the Development of Psychological Therapy Services was also welcomed and the concept of partnership working was embraced. However, the response called for training needs at all the relevant levels to be addressed and for the considerable expertise brought to the area by applied psychology to be reflected in the thrust and leadership of these developing services. It was recommended that psychological therapy services should be both broadened out to take account of all psychological services and delivered across the full lifespan to
all client groups. Finally, while it was acknowledged that the proposed stepped care model has merit, serious consideration was urged in respect of a stratified model.

The Society’s response to the Department of Health consultation on the future of the healthcare science workforce was reported in the News section of the April issue (p.292). The remaining two consultations responded to during March were: 21st Century Schools: A world-class education for every child and 2020 Children and Young People’s Workforce Strategy (both from the Department for Children, Schools and Families). Again, full details are available from our website.

The preparation and submission of the Society’s responses to consultations on public policy is coordinated by the Policy Support Unit (PSU). All members are eligible to contribute to responses and all interest is warmly welcomed. Please contact the PSU for further information ([email protected]; 0116 252 9926/9577). Details of active and completed consultations are available at: www.bps.org.uk/consult.

Division restructures
Antonia Dietmann, Division of Occupational Psychology Chair-Elect 2009/10

The Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP) has been working hard over the last year to become the professional association that its members need and want in this time of transition. We are facing a number of drivers for change – regulation, professional development, chartership, and economic. Other Divisions are most likely experiencing the same challenges and concerns, so we thought it would be helpful to outline what we have tried to achieve.

Past Chair Gene Johnson implemented the Membership Engagement initiative in 2008 as one of the key means of responding to the change we saw. Then we turned to the structure of the Division and its subcommittees, reassessing our aims and how the structure was helping and hindering these aims. Restructuring may or may not be an appropriate response, but we would certainly encourage each Division’s committee to ask themselves the following questions:I    Do you come across activities conducted by your subcommittees that you didn’t know about?
I    Are all your activities communicated to members in a timely manner and do you capitalise on the PR opportunities?
I    Do you fully utilise your members’ expertise to secure influence either internally or externally?
I    Are there a lot of people at your committee meetings and sometimes it’s hard to see the wood from the trees?
I    Do you have clear lines of communication and responsibility?
I    How creative are you?

We have identified the following four aims for the DOP:
I    To embed the science and practice
of occupational psychology into organisations and working life.
I    To promote the profession of occupational psychology.
I    To support the development of occupational psychologists and be the preferred supplier in CPD activities.
I    To use the expertise within the Division to influence relevant stakeholders, e.g. the Society, Health Professions Council and wider government; in this way to become a thought leader on issues pertaining to occupational psychology.

The seven old subcommittees have been redefined and amalgamated into five strategy groups: Awards & Recognition; International Liaison; Science & Practice; Professional Standards & Development; and Public Relations & Communications (this last group is a key strategy group that will ensure consistent messages
and DOP branding across the other four strategy groups, so we represent it as a circle encompassing the other four strategy groups).

The intention is that the new structure will enable:I    synergies in ideas, process, and deliverables to be achieved between groups that previously did not work closely together;
I    all related tasks to be managed and directed by a single point of contact
in the role of the convenor; this will enable better direction and flexibility flowing directly from the DOP Committee;
I    a reduction in the representation required on the DOP Committee, which will facilitate tasking, accountability and oversight; and
I    better decision making on the allocation of limited resources to have maximum impact on the provision of member services.

We have found that the membership engagement work undertaken has been a key foundation for other changes – after all many divisional activities rely on volunteers. But they need something tangible to get involved with, clear direction from the Division regarding its strategic aims, and an understanding of the drivers for change.

It is likely that in the future the Society will be strongest when the Divisions work together as much as possible. The DOP would like to open its door to all other Divisions – if you want to discuss our recent experiences and perhaps identify areas of overlap we would be more than happy to hear from you.

Our thanks go to all the convenors and members of the old subcommittees – we could not have achieved everything that we have done without you. Many of you will be joining new working groups, and your experience will be invaluable.If other DOP members would like to get involved with any of the new strategy groups, please e-mail [email protected] with your name and preferred strategy group. Some of the working groups need to get up and running immediately. Whether you have done DOP committee work before or not, we want to you to become engaged.

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