Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 21 April 2017

Several of our regular meeting attenders offered their apologies as they were away on holiday or attending courses in exotic locations but as ever our modest numbers did not, I believe, detract from the enjoyment of our gathering for those of us who were able to be present. Our themes for this meeting were the related topics of office, or more broadly, of work politics and the relationship between general mental ability and what might be thought of in our culture as success in work or life in general. Some might think of success as simply the accumulation by whatever means of great wealth and power but many might see that as being highly debatable. Occupational, or as it is sometimes called, institutional psychology was to my disappointment little discussed on psychology courses being seen as concerned with little more than industrial efficiency. Most of us in the U3A, however, have spent many years of our lifetime so far in working environments and this seemed to me to be a topic that would be of interest to members and one on which they might have a great deal of experience to share.

We began by looking at a definition of rationality and then a New Scientist article called “Intelligent but Stupid”, which asserted that studies comparing the scores of many individuals on IQ and rationality tests show a low correlation between the two scores. This is not what one might have expected as it implies that even people with high IQ scores do not necessarily think logically in everyday situations. Developing theories and experiments to demonstrate this has though been the life’s work of the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and I hope to devote one of our future sessions to looking at his fascinating and, to some economists especially, controversial work.

I’d then intended for us to look then at some definitions of personality traits often involved in work related situations but this being the U3A and a meeting not a lecture the members preferred to share with the group their wealth of personal work experiences across a wide range of careers. From this it was clear that interactions with colleagues exhibiting a wide range of attitudes and behaviours, some possibly pathological, had had profound effects on the quality of their work experiences.

This proved to be so interesting that we had run out of time to discuss the work on office politics by psychologist Oliver James so postponed that until our next meeting. We instead looked at an animated video clip available on You Tube called, “The 48 Laws of Power”. This summarises in cartoon format a book with the same title by the American author Robert Greene. His book is essentially a manual no how to win and keep personal power and influence by largely cynical and manipulative means without regard to any inconvenient ethical or moral code. The viewing was at once perhaps both entertaining and a little shocking and not necessarily beyond everyone’s life experiences.

We meet again on the 19th May at The Owl in Hambleton from 2 until 4pm and I look forward to seeing everyone again then.

John Moore – Group Leader
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