Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 18 January 2019

Venue: We met at Dennis’s home from 2-4 pm. Chair: John Number of members present: 6

Report on the previous meeting: This had been posted on the U3A website was and taken as read.

Matters discussed: At this meeting we continued with our topic of development concentrating this time on adolescent and adult development.

1] To begin with we harked back to Erikson’s theory of development as his stages which began with birth continue on throughout a person’s lifespan. Stage 5 called Identity vs Confusion covers adolescence, Stage 6 called Intimacy vs Isolation covers early adulthood, Stage 7 called Generativity vs Stagnation covers one’s working life in adulthood and finally Stage 8 which he call Integrity vs Despair covers old age and describes how a person may feel when reflecting back on their life.

2] We then watched a quite short but very interesting video made by Prof Sarah-Jayne Blackmore who discussed the recent great advances in understanding the development of the adolescent brain by using scanning technology on volunteers. MRI scanning gives a detailed snapshot of the brain’s structure and fMRI scans taken over the time needed to complete a task shows the complex interaction of brain areas involved.

a] She described the functions of the brains pre-frontal cortex and showed that contrary to popular belief the number of synapses in the brain fall at this time as those least used are pruned away to make best use of those that are most required.

b] She also showed that the mid-brain’s limbic system which processes emotional responses and the brain’s response to rewards is highly sensitive during adolescence. It consequently is not yet fully subject to inhibitions applied by the higher centres in the pre-frontal cortex. It is part of what is known as the social brain which may help to explain the social awkwardness and sensitivity commonly seen during adolescence.

c] Her conclusion was much of what we think of as teenage behaviour is partly driven by these developmental changes in the brain. This also means that at this stage in life the brain is particularly adaptable, malleable and sensitive to positive educational and social experiences.

2] We then watched another relatively short video which concentrated on the social experiences that may help to form the attitudes and behaviour typically seen in teenagers whilst trying to avoid generating any stereotypes.

a] The analysis of these influences has been the traditional territory of psychology. They have been an issue in all known current societies and have been written of throughout recorded history.

b] Many studies have looked at various styles of parenting, social class attitudes, media influences, poverty and other forms of deprivation, gang culture and drug taking, as well as the influence of education, unemployment and friendship groups.

Next meeting: Our next meeting will take place on the 15th February, from 2 to 4 pm at Dennis Kirby’s home. Our topic then will be the psychological approach to the study of personality.

John Moore – Group Leader
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