I've launched the Psychology Wizard with a new domain name; www.psychologywizard.net
My thinking is, this will make the site easier to find and will free me to add more features to it than the old Weebly free website template allowed.
So what's ahead in 2016? Well, the Psychology Wizard has most of the Unit 1 material up for Cognitive, Social and Learning, but nothing yet on Methods. That's going up next. The material on Biological Psychology should follow in February/May and that leaves Unit 1 pretty much done. Then I'll take a look at Unit 2.
Psychology Wizard needs a cool logo, so I'm asking my students (via the Art Department at my school) to design one as a competition. Hopefully, the winning logo should appear in a month and give the site some 'brand identity'.
I'll be working on some personal projects too. I'm redrafting a horror novel on the WriteOn site and comments are welcome.
After that, I've got a outline for another novel which lets me wear my Religious Studies hat: an action-adventure set around the court of King Herod and the birth of Christ.
My New Years Resolutions are fairly well accounted for with these projects, besides the usual lose-weight-and-drink-less good intentions. I thought I'd review the psychological ideas on the site so far to help me stick to these.
The Learning Approach tells us a lot about why we find it hard to stick to Resolutions. A lot of our behaviour is ingrained habit. In other words, it's conditioning.
Partly, we're Classically Conditioned by powerful associations that go back a long way. That chocolate bar at break time? The fried chicken wrap at lunch? They were just Neutral Stimuli to us once upon a time, stuff we could take or leave. But there they are, at the same time every day in the snack bar or vending machine and they get associated with " mid morning break" and before you know it, they're Conditioned Stimuli and our Conditioned Response is to buy them and eat them.
Then the Operant Conditioning kicks in as a sort of double-whammy. When we eat chocolate we get a reward. Not just the nice taste (though that too!) but also the release of chemicals called endorphines that bond to pleasure receptors in the brain. An apple or cheese sandwich just isn't so rewarding on a biological level.
The good news is that, knowing how conditioning works, we can do something about it. You need different associations in place of the old ones. So you stay away from the Conditioned Stimuli by taking a route that avoids the vending machine or staying out of the snack bar. You build up alternative associations: use mid-morning break to catch up on a book, social media or a video game, anything so long as you break the link. Pavlov found he had to condition his dogs up to 20 times to get them to salivate to his metronome or tuning fork. THat means 4 weeks should be sufficient to break a conditioned habit.
It's important that your alternative associations should be rewarding too. It's no fun replacing chocolate with a stick of cerlery or a dry biscuit. You've got to reward yourself. The most popular way of doing this is putting aside the money saved on the chocolate or fried food you didn't buy and spending it instead on something else you like too - pay to download a song, buy a Scratch Card or just save it for something larger. Psychologists call this a Contingency Contract and it's the basis of token economy programmes which have been proven to work.
I'm a big fan of board games and my heart is set on a monstrously huge game called Cthulhu Wars which retails for a wopping £140. But I figure, if I spend £2 a day at the school snack bar, then if I save the money instead I'll have that much by May. Simples!
Yes. I know. It's a retarded war game with plastic monsters. But that's who I am! That's how I roll!
It's not really that simple, though, otherwise everyone who set out a contingency contract in January and stick to it - but they don't!
It's worth remembering the other Approaches in Psychology. For example, in the Social Approach you learn about Social Impact Theory which reminds us that we're always at the receiving end of Social Force, trying to get us to do something. That Social Force might come from your cheery canteen staff ("Ooh, look what we've got for you today!"), advertising or even your friends ("Come and join us for chicken nuggets!"). Social Force tends to 'gang up' on individuals, but it gets lessened if it is split between two or three targets. That's why a contract buddy is a good idea, a friend who will share your Resolution and do the same as you. Now the Social Force being brought to bear on you is halved!
The other advantage of having a 'resolution buddy' is that the pair of you become an ingroup together. Remember what Henri Tajfel discovered about ingroups? You tend to rate the products of your ingroup highly and you identify with ingroup members, shifting your behaviour to be like them. If your friends are still tucking into pizzas and chocolates, you'll be under pressure to do the same, unless you start to see that as outgroup behaviour. This is probably why ex-smokers become so aggressively anti-smoking: they used to see other smokers as their ingroup, but now they see them as an outgroup.
I've got a nice R2D2 piggy bank to start saving coins in and I'll add to it every day that I resist the siren song of chocolate and fried food. I'll post up a review of Cthulhu Wars when I get my hands on it: hopefully some time before the A-Level exams!
The Psychology Wizard is Jonathan Rowe. I'm a teacher and writer, living in the Fens of Lincolnshire. It sure is flat here. I'm writing a Roman Horror Novel at the moment. Check out Tinderspark and The Thief Of Faces if you fancy a good read.