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How trusting are you? Ros Searle and Volker Patent (Open University) invited the audience to use a psychometric tool to examine how trusting they were. They went on to facilitate an assessment of mutual trust among delegates and to show how this might be experienced in real-life scenarios, such as when changing jobs.
Presenting a workshop on 'The secret life of happy and productive workplaces', Sarah Lewis asked the audience to think back to the aspects of the best place they had ever worked, and discuss this in pairs. Her own take gave 10 aspects that make for positive and happy workplaces, including authentic leaders, reward-rich environments and using our strengths.
Nash Popovic, an author, counsellor and lecturer at the University of East London, led an engaging workshop about 'pub psychology', an approach based on ideas from coaching psychology, positive psychology and the personal synthesis model. Pub psychology started after the Psychology for All conference in 2009 and involves weekly drop-in sessions in a pub focusing on a different subject each week, for example self-esteem, worrying or relationships. Popovic gave us a glimpse into the sessions by giving an entertaining example of a task in a session based on lying.
The scope and aims of neuropsychology were the subject of Catherine Loveday and Trudi Edginton's (University of Westminster) fascinating lecture on how brain injury can help us to understand the mechanics of the mind. Loveday used a series of well-known historical examples, such as Paul Broca's patient 'Tan' and Phineas Gage, to show early evidence of brain modularity: the notion that different areas of the brain have specific functions. These classic case studies provided a foundation for Loveday to explain our more contemporary understanding of the links between structure and function, but she also used examples from her own practice to elaborate on this and to raise awareness of the widespread causes and day-to-day effects of brain injury. Loveday concluded on a hopeful note with some insight into current approaches for rehabilitation, including reference to her own work with SenseCam, a camera that automatically takes regular pictures that can later help to trigger episodic memories [see February's 'Big Picture'].
Loveday took to the podium again after lunch with a presentation that outlined the biological and cognitive changes that happen to the brain as it ages and some of the ways in which we can protect against this. While it is true that many neurons die or become dysfunctional, the good news, Loveday pointed out, is that the brain is capable of 'plasticity', a remodelling of synaptic connections and even growth of some new neurons, throughout life and on into old age. She explained that although some cognitive decline is inevitable, there are many abilities that are spared and continue to grow, most notably those that are used the most. Physical health and regular exercise were cited as good ways to keep the brain and mind in good shape, along with psychological well-being. She also explained that keeping the mind active and employing specific cognitive strategies can all minimise or reverse the effects of age.
Miles Thomas gave an interesting and engaging presentation using psychology to describe the experience of wine. Thomas was able to clearly give a context and history of wine, bringing psychological theories and models to the world of wine. Studies were described that have shown how consumers are primed to enjoy a product more by it being described as more expensive and how fMRI scanning has been used to show this is a physiological effect. He recognised that wine buying can be a self-conscious experience and gave some useful tips on wine tasting and buying which were well received by the audience.
BPS London and Home Counties Committee Member
Educational Psychologist, Southend on Sea
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