Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 20 May 2016

We met at our usual venue and Barrie Slinger took the chair. As all present had seen the last meeting’s report on the U3A website this was taken as read and we moved on. As our Treasurer was away with the Theatre Group we thought it inappropriate to discuss the issue of expenses payments in her absence and this was differed until the next meeting.

At our previous meeting we had watched David Eagleman’s programme on the psychology of self-control and free will. Though fascinating this had discussed the issues from a mainly biological standpoint and whilst entirely valid in itself we ran out of time and were unable to discuss the social factors which so often impinge on what we think of as our free will. To do this we referred back to a meeting we had with the previous group which had looked at the power of social influences on our behaviour. In an increasing order of free will constraints these included: persuasion, compliance, conformity and obedience. We all agreed that these factors do to a greater or lesser extent impact strongly on our exercise of free will and that we underestimate their power at our peril.

We then moved on to consider a crucial aspect of personal and social behaviour, that of decision making. In our rapidly changing and complex lives we are constantly and at almost every level faced with alternative courses of action between which we need to decide. In some cases unfortunately these possible choices conflict at what we think of as an important level and this produces a dilemma which we are required to resolve which in turn generates stress. In the time we had left we watched the first half of David Eagleman’s programme on decision making where he looked at the results of what could be called both “natural” and designed experiments which have given insights about the decision making processes at work within our brains. In some cases these have been deduced by looking at the consequences for patients when these processes have been damaged. He also looked at the physiological effects of decision making and suggests that some may be genetic in origin and can be pre-conscious. He also suggested that the brain can predict decision making outcomes and that this may be a factor in addictive behaviour.

Unfortunately we had by then run out of time and agreed to complete our viewing at the next meeting. This will be on Friday the 17th June, between 2 and 4 pm at The Owl Hotel, Hambleton and I look forward to seeing you all again then.
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