The appliance of psychological science

The BPS Research Digest is celebrating its 200th issue with a series of articles from well-known psychologists that describe how psychology has helped them out in everyday life.

There’s a whole stack of people involved who have written on everything from love to scientific thinking to child rearing.

Both myself and Tom have contributed pieces but my favourite is from Ellen Langer who has spent many years studying the effect of stereotypes about old age on older people:

At age 89 my father’s memory was fragile – he was showing his years. One day we were playing cards and I began to think that I should let him win. I soon realized that, if I saw someone else behaving that way, I’d tell her to stop being so condescending. I might even explain how negative prophecies come to be fulfilled, and I’d go on to explain that much of what we take to be memory loss has other explanations.

For instance, as our values change with age, we often don’t care about certain things to the degree we used to, and we therefore don’t pay much attention to them anymore. The “memory problems” of the elderly are often simply due to the fact that they haven’t noted something that they find rather uninteresting. And then, while I was weighing whether to treat him as a child because part of me still felt that he would enjoy winning, he put his cards down and declared that he had gin.

There are many more great pieces at the link below.

Link to BPSRD ‘Psychology to the Rescue’ series.

3 thoughts on “The appliance of psychological science”

  1. Very good – I think science in general encourages people to question their assumptions. Too bad this is not more commonplace. I notice too many doctors dealing with the elderly, brush off problems as old age right away instead of looking for answers as they might in a 20 year old. Having an enlightened perspective should be thought of as an inherent talent as well, because many “experts” fall back into habits as well.

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