Anything you can do, I can do too

Mike the Psych's Blog

Violent offences and sex attacks, increased alcohol consumption and partner abuse, have all increased dramatically for women.

Gone are the days of ladylike behaviour. Increasingly women are copying the worst behaviours of men. They are just as likely as men to troll partners online; they are swearing more than men (who have cut down); and drinking more than ever before.

Teenage girls in the UK are twice more likely than boys to get drunk than almost anywhere else in Europe where it is the other way round. They are also more likely to be drink-driving than men from the age of 30 with a doubling of the number of women convicted for it since 1998.

figure_behind_bars_anim_500_wht_3524There are currently almost a hundred women in prison for violent behaviour, up a third, and over a hundred serving time for serious sexual offences, three times the number, compared to ten years ago.

One…

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Dumbing down that smartphone

icon_flow_smart_phone_loop_500_wht_9550Have we reached smartphone-peak?

Have we finally realised we need to unplug ourselves from endless apps and social media connections? No more anxiety from FOMO or FOBO?

The NoPhone might have been a prank by two Canadian entrepreneurs having a dig at the latest smartphone upgrade but now there is a real alternative: the Light Phone.

It’s the size of a credit card and can make calls and store 10 numbers and that’s it. Retro or what?

It will be launched in the US by two friends, Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang, who used to design Motorola phones (I loved my flip-top Motorola) but grew jaded with the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.

If you believe the statistics – and I find these figures unbelievable and not sure of their source – we tap our phones on average 2,617 times a day with almost 90% of us unable to resist checking our devises at leat once between midnight and 5.00 am. I am clearly an outlier in these statistics and in my usage despite blogging and using several twitter accounts.

Another survey from Deloitte however seems to confirm this trend with users aged 18-24 the worst offenders in that they are the ones most likely to use their phones in the middle of the night. These people are truly addicted and as Paul Lee, who led the research at Deloitte says “Consumers will need to learn how to run their lives with smartphones, as opposed to having their lives run by their devices.

Another trend is that of using video calls and social networks rather than standard voice calls which are declining. (Perhaps people like the idea of free calls and encryption?) A third of the respondents in the survey said they hadn’t made a voice call in the previous week.

Deloitte’s Key findings:

  • One in three UK adults has argued with their partner about using their mobile phone too much, according to Deloitte.
  • The rows were most common among 25-34 year olds the report found, while 11% of over 65s admitted arguments about overusing phones.
  • About a tenth of respondents admitted using their handsets “always” or “very often” while eating at home or in restaurants.
  • A third said they regularly used their devices while with friends or watching television.
  • One in three UK adults – and half of 18-24 year olds – said they checked their phones in the middle of the night, with instant messaging and social media the most popular activities.
  • One in 10 smartphone owners admitted reaching for their phone as soon as they woke up – with a third grabbing the device within five minutes of waking.

However it’s also been reported that a few famous showbiz people have said they are giving up social media and doing a digital detox but I’ll believe that when I see it. They are too narcissistic to be away from their digital followers for long.

nokia-n70 150px-nokia_3310_blueThere is however a market for old Nokia phones, such as the 3310 and N70, which are selling for hundreds of dollars online (I never liked Nokia phones with their fiddly keyboards but for a time they ruled the world).

But back to the Light Phone. It will sell for $100 in America and should be available in the UK by the end of the year. It shares the same number as your regular phone forwarding calls to it. It’s called “going light” – no emails , games or apps. Perfect when you’re out for a meal or enjoying some quiet time in the countryside.

One of the inventors said  he was constantly checking what other people were doing on social media and it was chipping away at his own contentment. (See post about social media and depression which proves his point).

I found I was getting lost in these scroll holes. I would come out not necessarily feeling good about myself. My smartphone was sucking me in. As soon as I stepped away – I call it breaking through the fomo threshold, getting over the fear of missing out, I felt free“.

He said he realised he was happier in those disconnected moments “when I can watch a sunset, appreciate my friends. We want to make a product that helps people appreciate their lives, not control their lives”.

The Light Phone is not a substitute for a smartphone but a supplement, but if it allows you to get away from all the social media intrusion. “Even just 20 minutes for a coffee“. He doesn’t see it as a retro regressive step but as asking the question about what we actually want from technology.

images-1It reminds me that I’ve got a simple Motorola W220 phone I bought in Lithuania 10 years ago to use on my regular trips out there.

No camera, less than £50, on a “pay as you go” contract. But it’s a flip top. It  might be so retro it’s trendy!

Boys need a leg up at school but treating them like girls?

babies_with_blocks_spelling_learn_1600_wht_13401The latest research on children’s achievements suggest that there are a million lost boys out there.

These are the boys who have fallen behind girls in the communication skills they need to cope in class.

The research by the charity Save the Children and researchers from Bristol University says that this gap exists regardless of social class.

A professor of education at Bristol University said ” We found gender affects literacy attainment and language development irrespective of social class and includes boys from middle-class homes.

The worst affected area was Merseyside, where 5-year old boys were 17% behind girls in reaching expected standards in language and communication skills. But even in Rutland, which has low poverty levels, the gap was still 14%.

Girls are ahead of boys in all 152 local council areas in England.

This is worrying because children who fall behind before they reach school tend to stay behind. Boys who are behind at age 5 are four times more likely to fall below expected reading standards by the age of 11.

They struggle to pay attention in class and find it hard to follow lessons or develop friendships. They are also less likely to get good GCSE results and A levels, complete degrees (already there are fewer boys than girls going to universities), get a good job and are more at risk of poor mental health.

A spokesman for Save the Children  said “this research gets to the nub of why boys fall behind. It shows that even before they walk through the school gates they are at a disadvantage that trails them through life.

The researchers say that parents can help bridge the gap by bringing up boys more like girls.

The research shows that parents spend less time on activities that develop language skills with their sons rather than their daughters.

They sing more nursery rhymes and songs and do more drawings and paintings with girls than they do with boys. So parents can do more with their sons in this regard and also get them to talk more about their activities. They can also read story books as well as non-fiction books to get them interested in reading for pleasure (Dads take note especially).

The other problem boys have is their ability to concentrate and focus. So playing word games and completing drawing tasks can help them build up their concentration and attention span.

Save the Children is recommending having a graduate teacher in each nursery to boost boys’ levels of literacy before they get to school.

The report makes sense but the idea of bringing up boys more like girls is a misleading headline.

It’s been argued for years that there are too few male role models in nurseries and primary schools and the way young pupils are taught is more girl-friendly. Something I posted on several years ago.

More needs to be done about drivers using mobile phones

texting_behind_the_wheel_1600_wht_10007It seems some motorists are addicted to using apps when driving and the current £100 fine plus 3 penalty points is no deterrent (which was to be increased to £150 and 4 points – 6 for HGV drivers after the consultation period ended in March).

An RAC survey found that drivers think that the fine should be even bigger, perhaps £450, to try and deter drivers using everything from texting to updating Facebook because drivers see the existing fines as unduly lenient.

10% of drivers believe that using a phone when driving should lead to instant disqualification, and I couldn’t disagree with that. Mobile phone use is the top complaint by drivers.

Prosecutions have dropped  by almost half between 2009 and 2014 and fewer drivers have been handed fixed penalties. This suggests that the police aren’t taking it seriously. All they would have to do is park near my nearest roundabout to regularly see drivers on the phone as they manoeuvre around it.

There have been a lot of promises about clamping down on this problem but little action.

Dementia update 2016

elderly_man_holding_a_custom_text_sign_12871The government has announced a pilot programme to screen 40-year olds for dementia. The government wants to make Britain “the best place in the world to live with dementia“.

There are about 850,000 in the UK who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other severe neurodegenerative problems (approx 70% have Alzheimer’s and 20% vascular dementia).

Only those over 65 have a mid-life MoT at present. If the pilot is a success it will be extended to all GPs allowing them to suggest ways that people can cope with it better.

Exercising more, controlling weight and blood pressure, and eating better, are a few ways that could help.

Another part of the project is to enlist people in research to allow doctors to better understand and treat the condition.

Dementia can be frightening and the Alzheimer’s Society says  more than 9 out of 10 people think hospitals are frightening places. The health secretary has pledged that people in high dependency units will be seen regular by consultants, up to twice a day if appropriate.

Dementia support groups welcomed the shift in attitude from the government which has made dementia one of its top four priorities. “Many people with dementia face stigma and a health and care system that simply does not work for them resulting in emergency hospital admissions, extended stays and desperate loneliness

Public Health England is looking at lifestyle as a risk factor and asking doctors to look at patients with high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats or early signs of type 2 diabetes (this is part of the mid-life MoT).

A study published by Cardiff University in 2013 had looked at the lifestyles of over 2,000 men aged 45-59 over 35 years.

It found that men who were non-smokers, who took exercise, kept their weight down, drank little and ate well, had a 60% drop in dementia and cognitive decline as well as 70% fewer instances of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s society says “What’s emerging is that what’s good for the heart, in terms of lifestyle, is also good for the head. We don’t yet understand why this is so and we need to do more research on it”

If we could delay the average age on onset of Alzheimer’s by five years we could cut patient numbers (currently 850,000 and predicted to rise to 2 million by 2050) by a third” Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in England and Wales.

Researchers at Yale University think that helping people to have a more optimistic view of old age could delay the onset. They found that people with pessimistic views of old age, thinking that the elderly are irritable, slow to learn and forgetful, are themselves more likely to acquire the disease.

However it’s hard to untangle the psychological and medical factors given that early changes can take place 15 years before symptoms show. Recent US research suggests that forgetfulness in your 60s can be a sign of a higher dementia risk

However memory loss is not the only symptom.

Walking slowly could be an early sign of dementia, according to researchers in France who measured people’s walking speed and gait. Speed of walking has also been associated with life expectancy along with other simple tasks.

The researchers acknowledge that people could also be influenced by other illnesses such as cardio-vascular disease or depression which could have an impact on the brain.

Some of the symptoms might seem more obvious – like not recognising yourself in the mirror,  forgetting how to work the microwave, or not knowing what day or year it is.

Even a warped sense of humour could be an early sign of dementia. So if you are laughing inappropriately at tragic events or enjoy slapstick humour they could be early warning signs which show up 9 years before other symptoms.

The leader of this research at UCL said “Personality and behaviour changes should be prompts for further investigation and clinicians need to be more aware of these symptoms as a potential early sign of dementia”.

There is a lot of research into this tragic condition and there is also some good news. The number of men developing the condition has dropped considerably since the 1990s when there were 42 cases per thousand population now down to 27. In older men over 85 the incidence has almost halved from 72 to 38 cases per thousand.

This has been attributed to men living healthier lifestyles than they did 20 years ago. However with obesity and diabetes on the increase among the middle-aged these gains might not be maintained. So its back to “what’s good for your heart is good for your brain”

English kids are not as clever as they’ve been told

Forget all the A* stuff. When it comes to global comparisons our kids are not doing very well at all.

They are the most illiterate in the developed world, according to a survey by the OECD.

It warned that many young people are graduating with only a basic grasp of English and Maths and are unlikely to be able to get a job in which they can afford to pay off their student loans.

English teenagers aged 16-19 were rated the worst of 23 developed nations in literacy and 22nd in numeracy. In contrast pensioners or those close to retirement age were among the highest ranked of their age group.

Most illiterate nations

  1. England
  2. Spain
  3. US
  4. Italy
  5. school_children_holding_learn_blocks_1600_wht_12276France
  6. Ireland
  7. Canada
  8. Austria
  9. Northern Ireland
  10. Germany
  11. Norway
  12. Sweden
  13. Denmark
  14. Slovak Republic
  15. Czech Republic
  16. Belgium
  17. Australia
  18. Poland
  19. Estonia
  20. Finland
  21. The Netherlands
  22. Japan
  23. Korea

The number of low-skilled people in England is three times higher than top-performing countries like Finland, Japan, Korea and the Netherlands. South Korea came top for literacy and numeracy.

While English teenagers get good qualifications (which I attribute to grade drift, group assessment and multi choice formats) their basic skills remain “stubbornly weak“.

Some graduates have such poor skills they can’t tell when the petrol tank is empty or read the instructions on an aspirin bottle.

The OECD report suggests we would be better off cutting the number of undergraduates and putting more resources into basic education. The idea that everyone should be a graduate is nonsense and the proliferation of Mickey Mouse degrees to allow people to graduate was lamentable.

It also suggested that universities that allowed students to graduate without core skills in English and Maths should be fined.

Education in England has been blighted by the beliefs of progressive education” said the director of the centre for education at Buckingham University. And this has been going on since the 1970s when I saw student teachers out on teaching practice who couldn’t  spell simple words and had no grasp of grammar.

Recent reforms introduced by Michael Gove when he was education secretary have still to make a full impact although the number of top grades awarded are expected to fall in future years with only a third getting grade 5 (old grade C) which is the global standard.

And to add to students, and educationalists’, woes examination boards have finally admitted that some subjects are easier than others.

Critical thinking is the hardest A level subject followed by further maths, general studies, latin, physics, philosophy, chemistry, biology, and environmental science.

So which are the easiest A levels? Dance, followed by communication and culture, film, electronics, English literature, media, English language, textiles, drama, and photography.

At GCSE level Latin is the hardest subject (I still remember amo, amas, amat, amamus etc) followed by French, German, Spanish, business studies, religious education, history, geography, and music.

And the easiest GCSEs are: Art, English, design and technology, home economics, maths, PE and English literature.

So what are Ofqual going to do about it? Make the easier subjects harder? Well in average subjects a massive 30% of students get a or A* so hardly rewarding the best. In easy subjects only 15% get those grades whereas in difficult subjects 45% get them. Hardly seems fair does it. If it was a harder subject logic says there would be fewer higher grades.

One proposal is to raise the proportion of A and A* to 55% in harder subjects and reduce the proportion to 10% in easier subjects. How well you actually do and what grade you objectively get means nothing when you are applying such criteria.

One alternative was to have a uniform grading pattern and award 30% of students A or A* in all subjects.

This is the crazy world of modern education where what you know and actually achieve in examinations is subject to other criteria. An A* grade is hardly worth the paper it’s written on but at least it prepares students for the dumbing down they will be subject to at universities keen to attract student fees by awarding ever more 1st class degrees.

That’s of course if they’re not too busy worrying about safe spaces and no platform policies instead of actually studying.

In the meantime too many of our children lack basic skills in English and Maths. We should be ashamed.

Blondes are cleverer but they lie more

IMGP9497.JPGA study has found that the “dumb blonde” stereotype is unfair. American women with blonde hair seem to be more intelligent than women with other hair colours.

An economist studied 11,000 Americans, male and female, who had completed IQ tests.

The average IQ of a blonde white woman was 103.2 compared to 100.5 for a black-haired woman. 4.3% of blonde women had IQs over 125 compared to just 0.2% of black-haired women.

So why are blondes cleverer?

The answer may be simple – they lied about their hair colour. It turned out there were significantly more blonde females than males and yet hair colour is not linked to gender.

Jay Zagorsky at Ohio University who carried out the study thinks 1 in 6 blonde women were lying about their natural hair colour.

Blondes do benefit from their hair colour: blonde female fundraisers collect more money, blonde waitresses get bigger tips. But people think they are less intelligent.

As Pamela Anderson of Baywatch fame said “It’s great to be a blonde. With low expectations. It surprises people”

Photo by KindaDukish