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Psychology In Action

Psychology conference stretches the brain

Thought provoking topics such as “can you really rewire the adult brain” and “the psychological effects of brain injury” were just two of the items on the agenda at the Psychology in Action conference attended by L6 psychology students recently. A variety of speakers – some ‘science communicators’ and some psychologists delivered some engaging insights on the subject.

James Piercy spoke about clinical psychology in practice. As a science communicator, his interest in clinical psychology started as a patient, after suffering a serious brain injury following a car accident. He discussed the psychological effects of injury and how psychologists test and measure function.

Caroline Williams is also a science communicator and discussed “Can you really rewire the adult brain?” As part of research for her latest book, Caroline visited the laboratories of top neuroscientists and volunteered herself as a guinea pig in neuroscience studies. She tried out a variety of methods, from high-tech electrical brain stimulation to meditation, to see what, if anything, neuroscience can do for us.

The highlight of the day was a talk by Professor Stephen Reicher from the University of St Andrews on why everything the students thought they knew about Zimbardo and Milgram - two classic studies in psychology - is wrong. As part of the course, the students study “The BBC Prison Study” which was a replication of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment conducted by Stephen Reicher and Alex Haslam. Professor Reicher discussed why he believed the conclusions drawn by Zimbardo and Milgram were wrong, and he presented his theory for why people behaved the way they did in these studies.

The last session of the day was by Martin S Taylor, exploring hypnosis and challenging the belief that it’s a mysterious mind-control technique. Instead, it’s a cocktail of several well-understood psychological principles. As part of the session, volunteers from the audience, including Natalia King and Freya Johnson from Freemen’s, were used to demonstrate the illusion of mind control. Such was the interest in the topics covered during the day, debate and discussions spilled over into lessons the following day, inspiring and enthusing our pupils’ minds on the subject.