Hawthorne Experiments Online Exhibit

29 09 2007

The Advances In The History of Psychology blog pointed me toward a new online exhibit by the Harvard Business School (HBS) about the “Hawthorne Experiments.” Run between 1924 and 1933, the Hawthorne experiments were one of the first industrial/organizational psychology experiments which recognized the complex interactions among workers that influenced their productivity. In an essay introducing the exhibit, HBS professors Michel Anteby and Rakesh Khurana explain the importance of the experiments:

Through examining the everyday realities of organizational life, Fritz Roethlisberger and his colleagues found that the “person” and the “organization” could not be compartmentalized. Beneath the formalities of the organization chart was not chaos but a robust, informal organization, constituted by the activities, sentiments, interactions, norms, and personal and professional connections of individuals and groups that had developed over extended periods of time.

The existence of the informal organization, argued the Hawthorne researchers, meant that shaping human behavior was much more complicated than the then-dominant paradigm of scientific management had led managers to believe. The social system, which defined a worker’s relation to her work and to her companions, was not the product of rational engineering but of actual, deep-rooted human associations and sentiments.

Wehe 032Wehe 042Wehe 131

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Two recent All In The Mind episodes – both excellent

28 09 2007

The Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s ever-excellent All In The Mind radio show has two excellent recent episodes on the podcast. Have a listen.

All In The Mind – 22September2007 – The psychological power of forgiveness in South Africa:

Psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela was on South Africa’s historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chairing many of its tortuous public hearings about atrocities committed in the apartheid era. In an unprecedented dialogue she met with one of apartheid’s most abhorrent killers, in jail, to explore forgiveness, psychological redemption and the symbolic language of trauma.

All In The Mind – 15September2007 – Carer Couples: when a partner has a mental illness:

Lover or carer? Partner or dependant? This week, when a partner is afflicted with a severe mental illness, how is the relationship redefined? Do they feel like the body and soul you first fell in love with? Two couples — Lana and Paul, Gerard and Brendon — share the trials and triumphs of confronting illness and prejudice together.

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New schizophrenia experience memoir

27 09 2007

PsyBlog reviews a new memoir about living with schizophrenia. The book is Schizophrenia Explained: The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks. It refers to a theme we’ll be exploring next week: the diathesis-stress model, which holds that mental illness emerges as stress affects a predisposition for the illness.

PsyBlog: Schizophrenia Explained: The Center Cannot Hold:

Battle. Fight. Struggle. These are all words Saks uses to describe her experience. Nothing sets off these battles more effectively than transition points. When she leaves home to go to university, when she returns home from university, when she begins her academic career, when she has to present a paper at a conference. Each time she’s forced through a period of change or stress, her illness gets worse. Again and again she retreats to the barricades of her mind, sometimes winning, sometimes losing and ending up in hospital.

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Long Term Depression in New Orleans

22 09 2007

The Washington Post has an article on depression among survivors of hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans a year and a half ago. The article is unclear whether the depression is endogenous and chronic, or exogenous, a product of continuing situational factors. Nevertheless the incidence of depression symptoms and self destructive behaviors have increased.

Hurricane Katrina Exacts Another Toll: Enduring Depression – washingtonpost.com:

Between March 2006 — six months after the storm — and summer 2007, the number of people reporting signs of serious mental illness, rose from 11 percent to 14 percent. Before the storm it had been about 6 percent.

Similarly, the number of people who reported thoughts of suicide rose from 3 to 8 percent in New Orleans.

“There’s more depression, more financial problems, more marital conflict, more thoughts of suicide,” said Daphne Glindmeyer, a New Orleans psychiatrist who is president of the Louisiana Psychiatric Medicine Association. “And a lot of it is in people who never had any trouble before.”

Note the title of that organization—Louisiana Psychiatric Medicine Association. By definition, psychiatry is medicine. Strange.

One of the features of the article is the idea that victims of the storm want to get things back to how they were before the storm. That made me think of my response to finishing chemotherapy when I had cancer. I was in treatment in a city distant from my home, although I was with friends and in a familiar place. After treatment, I couldn’t wait to get back to my home. When I did get there, I fell into a deep depression. How could that be? I had beaten cancer, and gotten back home! It’s what I wanted, right?

Upon reflection, I realized that I wasn’t desperate to get back home physically, as much as I was to get back in time to before I had cancer. When I realized it would never be the same, I went into deep despair.

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News Flash – Death Camp Guards Were Just Like You And Me

20 09 2007

A new set of photos has been found which documented the lives of the guards in the Nazi death camps. It provides a stark reminder of the lessons learned by social psychology over the last 60 years: the mass murderers were not monsters, but rather normal human beings who were part of a situation that demanded a particular behavior. I do not dismiss their responsibility, but rather point to the fact that we are all potentially capable of genocide given the right situational variables.

Somehow this is news to some people.

U.S. Holocaust Museum Unveils 116 Photos – New York Times:

Hoecker’s personal album depicts a sing-a-long with an accordion player and about 70 SS men, including Josef Mengele, the camp doctor notorious for his bizarre and cruel medical experiments. Mengele was joined by other infamous camp leaders, including Josef Kramer and Rudolf Hoess.

The eight photos of Mengele are the first authenticated pictures of him at Auschwitz, museum officials said.

Also among the images are SS guards and Nazi on numerous hunting trips, Hoecker lighting the camp’s Christmas tree, and female SS auxiliaries eating blueberries and then mockingly crying and posing with empty bowls.

Judith Cohen, director of museum’s Photographic Reference Collection said the album ”adds nuance and illustration to the things that were hard to imagine, namely that the SS officers were able to simultaneously lead normal lives — they were able to socialize on one day — and commit mass murder on another, and not recognize the contradiction inherent in it,” she said.

The guards “did not recognize the contradiction” likely because of the processes we use to manage cognitive dissonance.

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A new eating disorder classification?

20 09 2007

The New York Times covers a research article published this month which proposes a new eating disorder: Purging Disorder. It seems to be distinct from bulimia, which also has purging features, and anorexia, which also may have purging features. What makes Purging Disorder distinct is that people don’t eat too much and purge which is the classic bulimia profile. They eat normally, but have the impulse to purge.

Researchers Examine “Purging Disorder” – New York Times:

Keel’s research, conducted from 2001-05, was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. The study looked at 90 women: 20 women had symptoms of purging disorder, 37 had bulimia and purged after binge-eating, and 33 had no eating disorders. Each woman was interviewed about her eating habits, drank a liquid meal and had blood drawn before and after the meal.

Keel said there were significant differences in the groups when it came to satiety, or feeling full.

In response to the liquid meal, women with purging disorder and those who had no eating disorder had similar levels of a chemical called cholecystokinin. It is released from the upper tract of the small intestine and appears to signal people to stop eating.

”That makes sense, because in terms of eating patterns, women with purging disorder are not actually eating more” than the women who had no eating disorder, Keel said. The bulimic women had lower levels of the chemical.

The women with purging disorder said they felt much more full after the test meal, and they reported more stomach discomfort than the bulimic women and the women with no eating disorders.

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Back at it!

18 09 2007

I am returning (slowly) from my summer break.

I didn’t realize just how burned-out I had become until a few weeks into the summer break my fiancée commented on just how relaxed I looked, and how she hadn’t seen me like that since the school year started. I still feel relaxed, but as usual, I am feeling the anxiety of the impending class schedule.

I am trying a couple of new things this term — In my Intro Psych class, I’ll be doing more with psychophysiology, because of a NSF-sponsored workshop I attended over the summer. I’ll be creating “Laboratory” sessions in my class, to measure the physiological (body) response to psychological stimuli (mind). It’s also a laboratory in doing science — the experimental method, and how it works. It should be very valuable (and fun) for my students, and it is also serving as a test for a research project being run by the people who ran the workshop.

In Abnormal Psych, I will be implementing a service-learning component, so my students will be conducting a mood disorders screening event. It’s part of the National Depression Screening Day program, and I have run it at another school, but never at this one. It’ll be a little scary, a little risky, a lot of work, and a lot of fun. My job is to help them pul together the resources they need to create a great event educating about and screening for mood disorders.

Classes start in a week, so I’ll be posting more on here this week, and getting content ready for the new school year!

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