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

Our meeting would not have taken place in its usual form had it not been for the kindness of Sandra and Dennis Kirby. I had discovered around 11 am on that Friday morning that the power cable for our U3A laptop had gone missing and no presentation would be possible without it. I emailed and rang around the membership asking for help with this problem and Sandra was generous enough to offer the loan of her laptop which Dennis duly brought to the meeting. This allowed me to show the prepared presentation so our thanks to them both.

It was such a joy to see Robina again who we knew well from the previous psychology group and who we know follows our meeting reports but we hadn’t yet seen in this group’s meetings.. Our format is rather different in this group and we do hope that we’ll see her again on a hopefully regular basis.

To begin the meeting proper I quoted from the work of a well psychologist called Oliver James who wrote a book called “Office Politics” in which he identified the traits of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism that he had found in particularly difficult work colleagues. For those who possess all three traits he advises us to avoid them whenever possible, not an easy thing to do in a workplace I would suggest. This led on to a general discussion of some notoriously psychopathic individuals that have become infamous in the financial sector of economic life. It further raised the issue of whether personality disorders should be regarded as “conditions of the mind” or as “mental illnesses”.

We then moved on to consider in general the resources that have been donated to us by the three Wetherby U3A psychology groups in exchange for resources we have managed to accumulate. Their material follows a more curricular structure than ours which I had avoided up to now partly through a lack of suitable resources and a desire to avoid a “back to school or work”, attitude that an albeit small number of former members had complained of. When we looked at the structure of the material, however, the general feeling seemed to be that as one aspect of our approach it could prove to be very useful and that we should pursue this course alongside the less formal style that we have become accustomed to. The general view was summed up well by one member in his saying that we should ideally be a “mixed economy”, of structure and informality.

In the time left we watched a video clip from the first topic in the Wetherby material entitled “What is Psychology?” In the discussion that followed this raised what is for me a fundamental issue regarding the nature of psychology namely: does psychology as many think belong to those fields of knowledge and enquiry that we refer to as sciences and if so then what is a science? I hope this doesn’t all sound too abstract and so off putting but I think we have to understand what we are talking about if we are to “know what we are talking about” to start with.

We meet again on the 18th of August at the usual time and place and will continue with our exploration of what psychology is in Topic 1 and perhaps the thorny issue of what constitutes a mental illness as opposed to a condition of the mind. One member has expressed a specific interest in consciousness as a topic and this will be discussed in Topic 3 of the course though any research any members could come up with on this or any other topic would of course be very welcome.

I look forward to seeing everyone again in August.

John Moore – Group Leader.
Back to Top