Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 15 September 2017

As at the time of this meeting a number of our regular attenders had, for very good reasons, to be elsewhere our numbers were reduced to just three: Christine, Wendy and myself. However, as we operate on the principle that it is quality not quantity that matters and the U3A states that a group meeting consists of two or more members then, “we few, we happy few”, decided to press on regardless. As Christine was unable to be at our last meeting Wendy kindly consented to my suggestion that we go through the basics of our last gathering and take this opportunity to discuss its main points at greater length and in greater depth than before. This of course allowed Christine to share with us anecdotal evidence form her long career in both domiciliary and hospital midwifery.

We began by looking in more depth than previously an issue that had been raised by Christine herself that of the fundamental difference between mental illnesses and personality disorders. As at our last meeting we discussed the factors most relevant to this issue such as: distress, insight, the perception of reality and conscience etc. but at greater length and in greater detail. Our small number did give us each the opportunity to offer personal knowledge and experiences gained over working lifetimes.

The various traditions that have contributed to the history of psychology were the basis of our next topic and we had the luxury of us each being able to express our support or disdain for the each school of thought’s theories and research methods. This led us on to the sometimes fraught topic of the relationship between scientific psychology and the natural sciences and in particular the ethicality and morality of the research methods used in the past and present in both. As we had the time we discussed these issues in relation to the famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, “blue eyes verses brown eyes” experiment on young schoolchildren carried out, without their parents’ knowledge or consent, by an American schoolteacher. Christine then described a clinical procedure used in the early days of her midwifery career which felt to us all to be quite shocking. As high soft tissue definition by ultrasound was not yet then available a dangerous obstetric condition called placenta praevia, which was diagnosable by safer methods, was identified by dosing heavily pregnant women with radio-active isotopes in order to identify the position of the placenta on an x-ray film. We all felt that such actions could only be “justified” by gaining the clinicians involved research acclaim for producing a more accurate observational tool. Whilst we all may joke about the underlying zeal of health and safety considerations we all agreed that such a clinical procedure would be thought of as criminally irresponsible in this day and aged and would be prohibited by any ethical committee worthy of the name.

We then briefly discussed the power of behaviourist conditioning through the worldwide advertising industry, the great strides made recently in cognitive psychology using MRI technology and the influences of developmental and social psychology in the education system and beyond of our multi-cultural society.

What we lacked in numbers I think we all felt was made up for by a very enjoyable and worthwhile meeting. We meet again on the 20th October and the agenda will as was originally intended for this meeting and I look forward to seeing you again then.

John Moore – Group Leader
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