Category Archives: Psychology

Dilemmas, Decisions, and Brain Function.

Moral Dilemmas and Brain Function

Participants needed to take part in a decision making and brain scanning study.

You will be asked to answer written problems, whilst seated in front of a computer screen and having your brain function and emotional arousal monitored. You will also be asked to answer a short personality questionnaire. This will take approximately 1 hour. Participants must be comfortable with English language and be free from known reading / language problems in order to participate.

Contact Glen Carrigan to book a laboratory slot: GACarrigan1@uclan.ac.uk. When emailing, please indicate which times would be most convenient for you between the dates of the 18th and 27th of August if you have a preference.

The laboratory is located in Darwin Building at The University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK. We can arrange to meet you at the building or elsewhere on campus if needed, please make us aware of any access issues you may have ahead of time.

Ethical Approval: PSYSOC 159_2nd Phase

Campus Map

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A Religion of Peace or War: Both Actually.

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Calling any religion, a religion of peace is a problem. We might wish they were, and our media takes every opportunity to tell us that they are despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but that isn’t the same as it being true. Blanket statements to the effect that they are, negate any need for criticism or improvement and for this reason are not just misleading, but dangerous. Tony Blair would have us believe that violence in the name of religion is  an ‘abuse of religion’ and a ‘perversion of faith.’ This is probably a well intentioned attempt at preserving community cohesion, but it’s anything but true as Ian Reader, a Professor of Religious Studies at Lancaster University succinctly points out. Such sentiments enable the ‘moderate’ believer to rest easy, knowing that they’re unlikely to have to change their opinions, but then the fanatic can equally believe that they don’t need to either, because after all, theirs is a religion of peace too.

Freedom of Religion, and Freedom from Religion

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Russell Brand’s Revolution And The Conspiracy Theory Link.

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Conspiracy theories and exponents of revolution have many holes in their arguments, even when they’re not as poorly made and detached from reality as when Russell Brand makes them. One of the main problems though, could be the mindset of the individual making all the noise themselves. Putting the word theorist after conspiracy, doesn’t then mean that an opinion becomes a testable hypotheses or is worth being taken seriously. Calling yourself a revolutionary, doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about, have a good heart, have the answers, or indeed, any solution at all. In Brand’s case, I don’t doubt that what he says comes from a good place, and I agree there needs to be a change in the way we live together in the world, but it needs to be actionable, and not just polemic that satisfies the idealistic – which is very difficult in the real world. I don’t discount everything he says, indeed, I’m impressed that he cares at all given his extremely privileged position as he might stand to lose out most. But, I’m skeptical of much of what he says for a few reasons.

One of the main problems if you identify as a conspiracy theorist, an anarchist, or a revolutionary, is that you tend to be against the ‘official’ narrative, whatever it is. It’s also possible that you’d object to many of the official positions and policies even if they’re beneficial, and any verdict surrounding unrelated events, even before there’s anything to object to, because you’ve primed yourself to. Another issue is the notion that you have to be open-minded to any alternative, whatever that option might be, even if it’s nonsense or just not feasible. However, without stretching the imagination, there are some theories that potentially have grains of truth to them: That aggressive financial lobbying for oil may have contributed in part to the Iraq war, or that the government are watching everything we do aren’t too far-fetched. There’s definitely a correlation between resources and war. And the government (and the media) are surely watching some of us, they have the technology, hopefully they’re focusing on terrorists though, but not me, I’m not interesting enough…. but maybe that’s what they want me to think! Read the rest of this entry

Moral Reasoning Research – What Will You Do?

I am a Masters by Research (MRES) student at the University of Central Lancashire under the supervision of Dr Lea Pilgrim, Dr Andrew Churchill, and Dr Mike Eslea. The following experiment asks you to fill in some basic demographic information, respond to a series of moral dilemmas and then complete a short questionnaire about personality traits. We anticipate this will take you approximately 25 minutes. We would ask you not to participate if you are under the age of 18. This study was ethically cleared by UCLan PSYSOC Ethics Committee under Reference Number: PSYSOC 159.

The dilemmas in some instances require you to make very difficult decisions which would involve the ‘death’ of hypothetical individuals described in the dilemma. Certain dilemmas also require you to make judgments on drug administration in a healthcare setting. Therefore we would advise that you do not participate if you think this may cause you distress. The personality questionnaire consists of over 60 questions that need to be answered honestly, and which look at how you feel about yourself, how you behave, and how you interact with others and the world around you such as: “I easily get bored.” You can withdraw your participation at any time by simply closing the browser window, after clicking the submit button withdrawal becomes impossible as your data will be anonymous.

The data we collect will be submitted for publication in a scientific journal and used in academic presentations and talks. You will not be able to be identified from the data due to its anonymity. Please feel free to contact the researchers with any questions.

If you are happy to proceed please indicate your willingness to do so, by clicking HERE.

Regards,Glen Andrew Carrigan, MBPsS | Senior Demonstrator | Bsc (Hons) Neuropsychology | Darwin Building 133 | GACarrigan@uclan.ac.ukDr Lea Pilgrim | Director of Studies | LPilgrim@uclan.ac.uk

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Hemispheric Differences in Facial Recognition

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This study has been ethically approved by The University of Central Lancashire.

Thank you for your interest in taking part in this study. I am a Graduate Diploma student conducting a project on hemispheric differences in facial recognition. For the task, faces will be presented on a computer screen. You will have to make a ‘same’ or ‘different’ judgment and press a button that reflects your choice. Your age and gender will be recorded.

Please be aware that you have the right to withdraw from this experiment at any point during the study. Due to the method of data collection, results will remain anonymous. Once you leave the laboratory, your data will be combined with previously collected data and therefore not possible to assign to a specific participant. As a result, once data has been submitted, it cannot be returned. Only the researcher, supervisor and examining body will see raw data.

If you still wish to participate in this experiment, please let the researcher know: Kimberley Ward: KWard1@uclan.ac.uk. If you wish to withdraw at this point, thank you for your time. Research slots are available from 9:00am – 11:00am. The experiment takes 10 minutes to complete.

 

Kimberley Ward

 

Moral, religious, psychopathic, or just human?

Glen Carrigan looks at the science of morality

Original article at British Humanist Association 07.07.2014

Science, increasingly, is answering questions which before only philosophers could attempt

Why doesn’t Microsoft Word recognise the word ‘Neuropsychology?’ Maybe because it’s a rather new field, although people have been musing on the workings of the physical brain for a very long time indeed – don’t worry though, we’re not trepanning people anymore!

My interest is the moral brain, how humans – and other animals to some degree – draw the distinction between right and wrong to organise society. Some argue that moral standards are axiomatic and that moral compasses come from god. There actually seems to be some truth to this, in that some absolutist standards like Thou Shalt Not Kill or the Golden Rule seem to be very intuitive – as is the notion that you’re somehow a social pariah if you play World of Warcraft. A paper by Baumard and Boyer called “Explaining Moral Religions” shows just how universal this is.

Is the Golden Rule any good though? Maybe, but you’re making your own narrow individual experience the basis for how you treat others. Wouldn’t it be better to ask them how they’d like to be treated? This should indeed be the case for issues such as assisted dying, where holding to Thou Shalt Not Kill diminishes the dignity and autonomy of a feeling, reflecting being. To hold dogmatic moral views also only works if you believe in god and that at least in some religions, you’re good to escape punishment in the hereafter, rather than for the sake of the here and now.

Far from being divine in origin, there seems to be a wealth of evidence showing us that being an individual yet social animal, with a big (relative to body size) and healthy brain, necessitates certain behaviours for us to flourish in a group. This then, gives rise to our need to discuss and reflect upon what it means to be a moral agent. You can see similar intuitive behavioural patterns to our own in other animals that operate in social groups. A wonderful example is the reciprocal behaviour of vampire bats, who seem to understand that a good deed (donating a regurgitated blood meal – stomach churning I know) deserves repayment. There is much converging evidence in evolutionary psychology that points to animals being the origin of their own ‘moral’ codes. But there are driving forces behind being a good egg other than reciprocity.

Throughout history philosophers have struggled with what constitutes the virtuous act. We notice that certain behaviours are predictable and wrong such as rape and rightly condemn people for it. We also need to accept that we make choices – if we have free will – and should be responsible for them. The fact that certain prohibitions are intuitive might suggest an in-built moral acquisition and refinement device (MARD) which is nurtured by social experience, emotion and reflection, rather than an omnipotent law giver. Perhaps we are actually responsible for the holy books that seek to have us tow the moral line – although we were managing to beforehand – in any event we seem to be the only species we know of that spends a great deal of time writing books telling ourselves to be good, that we’re special, and that we should be humble about it!

Neuropsychology can perhaps tell us a bit about this MARD and how we think, rather than what we should think here: We establish the social norms after all and what acts constitute deviance. The archetypal Psychopath seems to be deviant to many of us and this is why I study them. The fact is that we all have psychopathic traits along a spectrum; it’s just that some people have more pronounced, what the majority consider to be, morally deviant tendencies. Neuropsychology shows us that Psychopaths seem to have diminished empathic concern, as well as, fail to notice the importance of intention in a harmful act. Since it’s us that establish that intention to cause harm is worse than an accident (the difference between murder and manslaughter) we view psychopaths as morally deviant in society – perhaps their MARD is broken?

People often panic here and think that if we can predict someone will think and perhaps behave murderously then the notion of choice in society falls apart. It might, if you want Neuroscience to strip us of our humanity. In my view, although we could see why such people might be like this, that doesn’t mean they walk away scot free. What matters is that we discuss our options reflectively and organise society around us as moral beings that makes choices, with a sense of responsibility, and who can be punished for transgressions, rather than allowing my brain made me do it as an alibi in all cases where mental instability is an issue. It’s also worth pointing out that most psychopaths actually don’t run around murdering people like Heath Ledger in Batman!

An Evening of Science and Reason in Pictures

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Volunteers

Project Science and Reason

Jessica

Jessica Catherine Crawford

Volunteer

 Course: Bsc (Hons) Forensic Psychology

I am a BSc Forensic Psychology student, graduating in Summer 2014. I will be continuing on with the forensic specialism into an MSc heading for full chartership as a Forensic Psychologist, with the possibility of a PhD.

My journey through UCLan and involvement with research has been a hugely fulfilling experience. I feel psychology is a vital subject in such a wide variety of areas. In terms of Forensic psychology it is hugely important in attempting to reduce recidivism by adapting a range of therapeutic interventions that are sculpted to the different types of offenders and individuals. Eyewitness research also has an important place, in influencing the legal system and how a variety of authorities operate, from police to juries, lawyers and judges. Research into Forensic psychology is helping to better understand criminals, crime actions, eyewitness malleability and victimology, to…

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Theoretical and Applied Aspects of Distraction: An International Symposium

Glen Carrigan, John Marsh Symposium ay UCLan, 30th April 2014

Symposium: Theoretical and Applied Aspects of Distraction

The University of Central Lancashire

Wednesday 30th April, (Adelphi Building Lecture Theatre 2), 9: 30 am – 15:00 pm

Organised by Dr John Marsh and Glen Carrigan, University of Central Lancashire


Schedule

  • 9:30 am           Overview of the Symposium by John E. Marsh

Session 1 (9:45 am – 10:45 am):Attentional Capture and Cognitive Control

  • 9:45 am        Jessica K. Ljungberg (Umeå University, Sweden) “What’s In a Name? No More than when it’s Mine Own”: Evidence from Auditory Oddball Distraction
  • 10:00 am     Robert F. Potter (Distinguished Visitor, Indiana University, US) Two Really is Better than One: The Voice Change as a Means to Increase Attention to Radio Messages
  • 10:15 am       Robert W. Hughes (Royal Holloway, University of London) Auditory Distraction: A Duplex-Mechanism Account

  • 10:30 am       John E. Marsh (University of Central Lancashire) Cognitive Control of Distraction: Task Difficulty Eliminates Attenuates the Between-Sequence Semantic Similarity Effect
  • 10:45 am         Break/Group Discussion

 

Session 2 (11:00 am – 12:00 pm): Applied Aspects of Distraction

  • 11:00 am        Faye C. Skelton (University of Central Lancashire) In the Face of Distraction: The Impact of Changing-State Speech on Person Identification
  • 11:15 am         Charlie F. Frowd (University of Winchester) The Impact of Weapons and Unusual Objects on Face Recall and Composite  Construction
  • 11:30 am         Patrik Sörqvist (via Skype; University of Gavle, Sweden) Task Difficulty and Distractibility: Basic and Applied Aspects
  • 11:45 am         François Vachon (Université Laval, Canada) Reverberation and Multiple Voices: Solutions to Reduce the Cognitive Impact of Office Noise
  • 12 pm              Lunch

 

Session 3 (1:00 pm – 1:45 pm): Distraction, Action Planning, and Specialised Processing

  • 1:00 pm          Paul J. Taylor (University of Central Lancashire) Action Planning Interference of the Visual Processing of Action-Related Stimuli
  • 1.15 pm           Linden J Ball (University of Central Lancashire) When Distraction Helps: Evidence that Concurrent Articulation and Irrelevant Speech Can Facilitate Insight Problem Solving
  • 1.30 pm           Lea Pilgrim (University of Central Lancashire) Hemispheric Specialisation in Semantic Processing: Using Distraction as a Device to Evaluate the Fine-Coarse Model of Cerebral Asymmetry in Conceptual Processing
  • 1.45 pm           Break/Group Discussion

 

Session 4 (2:00 pm – 3:00 pm): Music as Distraction and Distraction within Special Populations

  • 2:00 pm           Nick R. Perham (Cardiff Metropolitan University) Music as Background Sound
  • 2.15 pm           Rona Linklater (University of Central Lancashire) Music Messaging for the Brain
  • 2:30 pm           Jingqi Yang (University of Central Lancashire) Examining Whether Lonely Individuals are Hypervigilant to Social Threat Using Attention and Memory Tasks
  • 2:45 pm           Tanya N Joseph (University of Central Lancashire) An Investigation of the Vulnerability of Child Cognition to Auditory Distraction

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UCLan Psychology; Genetics and Neuropsychology

After a successful debut at The Big Bang in Liverpool’s World Museum last year, I’m honoured to be asked to present my workshop at UCLan covering genetics and neuropsychology on Sunday the 23rd of March; so what’s it all about?

What is Neuropsychology?

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Neuropsychology is the study of how we think, and also how the physical brain helps us to interact with the world. Neuropsychologists seek to find how behaviour can highlight problems in the brain, and also help to indicate if there is a biological or psychological basis to many conditions. As you can probably guess, neuropsychology is a cross between neurology and psychology. Neuropsychologists can work as part of a team involving amongst others: neuroscientists, biologists, neurologists, psychologists and many other “ists”. Many practitioners are invested in applying the science directly to help clinical patients, others help by developing new techniques to achieve this, and other neuropsychologists conduct research into many related areas. Neuropsychologists use many different tools from behavioural questionnaires to sophisticated scanning techniques at the cutting edge of technology. One such recent development in technology has been dubbed “clarity” and is truly mind blowing, having been covered in a very accessible video by the guardian.

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